|"We're right in the middle of it," said Linn Thornton.|
Monett's Santa Claus is deep into his annual efforts to bring Christmas toys to less fortunate families. By the end of yesterday Thornton expected to have reached out to 225 families by yesterday.
"We're just hammerin' down and going," Thornton said. "I don't have to worry about gaining weight."
Toy drives by employees from EFCO, International Dehydrated Foods and Jack Henry and Associates as well as the Monett Lions have kept Thornton stocked. Nonetheless the gifts are going out quickly. Thornton said he is covering all of Monett plus receiving many calls from the Cassville, Purdy and Aurora areas.
"The Lord is opening doors and dropping a bunch whenever I need it," Thornton said.
"The number of Hispanic families we're helping is up 75 percent this year. I'm even learning some Spanish," Thornton added.
Thornton made deliveries yesterday morning to families with no transportation. In the afternoon he had 14 families scheduled to come to him for toys. This morning Thornton planned to don his Santa suit and give his undivided attention to the children at the Barry-Lawrence County Development Center.
The hectic schedule delayed the celebration of Thornton's 75th birthday with a family dinner by almost a week. Thornton expressed no regrets, thriving on the pace and the mission.
With Christmas day rapidly approaching, Thornton has taken more steps in preparation for his annual community dinner at the American Legion Home in Monett. He reported ordering table service for 1,000 people plus 250 carry-outs. He expected to wrap up toy deliveries next Wednesday then concentrate entirely on the dinner.
"I've got new volunteers fixing pastries and 500 cupcakes. I'm gathering meats and getting it all lined up. It's going good," Thornton said. "I wouldn't even try this in one of these bigger towns. They're not knit together like our people. I have people who have been with me for years. That means a lot."
|Thornton completed arrangements yesterday for one addition to his Christmas dinner, which he's been working on for five years. He reached an agreement with Sheriff Mick Epperly to take meals to all the prisoners and employees at the Barry County Jail.|
Thornton's wife, Anna, will take 70 carry-out meals, the biggest drop of the day, to the jail in Cassville. Thornton wanted to take food to the Lawrence County Jail as well but learned prisoners are not being housed there yet. To share Christmas with people who would otherwise not experience the joy elated Thornton.
"It's like me getting a new toy," he said with a grin.
Still, Thornton is staying focused on the effort ahead.
"It's going to be a race right to the wire. Then we jump over it and go the other way," he added.
The Christmas day dinner will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Legion. The dinner is open to everyone. Thornton accepts donations to help cover expenses.