Thornton calculated he distributed toys to around 380 families this year. He tabulated the information about each family, packed a bag of presents for them and had the families come to his Santa's workshop to pick them up.
"We've been real busy," Thornton said. "I've been working from 5 to 8 a.m. on my job, then coming home to work on presents 'til about 10 p.m. Anna [Thornton's wife] does the phoning and the paperwork, and I do the packing. The Lord opens doors. It all works out."
The next step will be the Christmas dinner. Thornton was excited to have Vickie Fuller's culinary arts class at the Southwest Area Career Center make 500 cupcakes for dessert. Casey's is donating two large pizzas. He had a supply of chicken that Tyson Foods was donating and cheese from Schreiber Foods to pick up in addition to other food stocks.
"We'll have turkey, deer, hams, fish, dressing, meat loaf; anything you want to eat, we've got it," Thornton said.
As the dinner nears, Thornton's enthusiasm about holding his first event at the First United Methodist Church's family life center has increased. He looks forward to having better access for people with limited mobility, expanded and faster serving lines and a bigger kitchen for preparation and packing for deliveries to shut-ins.
Those unable to attend who would like a dinner delivered can call 489-6117 or 489-2073 on Christmas morning.
The dinner will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Volunteers are welcome to come earlier and help in a number of capacities, from cooking to packing, delivering meals and serving. Clean-up assistance at the end is also welcome.
Thornton is making preparations to provide meals for the staff at Ramey Supermarket, Casey's, guards at Monett industries, staff at service stations that are open and emergency workers with the Barry-Lawrence Ambulance District and the city's police and fire departments. For the third year. Thornton hopes to take meals to the Barry County Jail in Cassville as a show of genuine Christmas spirit.
Thornton's dinner is designed especially for those without family, travelers, those for whom preparing a big holiday meal is no longer an option, or those who would like companionship in an old-fashioned family gathering for the day. The meal is free. Donations are welcome.
"We'll have the hall decorated. There will be treats for the kids," Thornton added.