Stuff the bus with gifts

Sanitation Santa volunteers collect toys at Alcoa Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart customers in Alcoa and Maryville showed their Christmas spirit recently when they filled two pickup trucks with toys and gifts for less fortunate youngsters in Blount County.

Sanitization Santa volunteers clad in elf outfits collected donations at the entrances to Wal-Mart stores in Alcoa and Maryville on Dec. 5.

Angie Luckey, director of Engineering and Public Works with the City of Maryville said they didn’t get an exact count on how much was collected. “We did get two full pick up truckloads of toys and we got several hundred dollars in donations and several people bought gift cards and gave them to us,” she said.

Luckey said Alcoa Wal-Mart manager Boyce Smith first approached them about having a “stuff the bus” type promotion for collecting toys because it worked so well when collecting school supplies at the beginning of the school year. “We were very pleased with how much we got our first year and we plan to do it each year,” he said.

Luckey said the Sanitation Santa program is for less fortunate children in Blount County. “Mainly our warehouse is open for people not served by any programs like Angel Tree or Toys for Blount County,” she said. “United Way filters people our way if they have never been served by Toys for Blount County or Angel Tree.”

Luckey said sometimes parents are caught off guard by a sudden financial emergency and have a tough time getting Christmas presents for their children. “A lot of times it is parents who think they can make it and don’t sign up their kids and then they can’t make it because it’s a cold month and an electric bill was higher than they thought it would be. It’s a variety of reasons.”

Luckey said Sanitation Santa was started about 27 years ago when Junior Gardner would throw treats to children. “The reason it was called Sanitation Santa was because he would throw candy out to kids on his garbage route,” she said.

About 10 years ago the city started collecting toys for less fortunate children. The program is directed out of the Engineering and Public Works Department. “We have three guys we call elves that coordinate it: Tim Green, Brad Hurst and Thomas Vananda,” she said.

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