In his 35th year serving as Santa Claus for the Monett area, Thornton reached 60 families in his first five days of distribution. Last year he ended his Christmas efforts by providing toys for 377 families.
"It's going to be a bumper year," Thornton said. "A lot of people aren't getting any hours yet from their employers."
Thornton's stockpile of toys has been bolstered by toy drives held by employees at EFCO, a Pella company, and International Dehydrated Foods. Donations to the Monett Jaycees' Toys for Tots campaign, which is still underway, will help as Thornton moves into high gear.
Thornton continues to work his regular job this week. He has been putting in eight-hour days as Santa after work. Beginning this weekend, he will go on vacation and concentrate all his efforts on toy distribution and preparing for the 28th annual Christmas Day dinner at the First United Methodist Church.
Groundwork for the dinner has been underway. With the price of beef practically out of reach for Thornton's budget, he has been recruiting "family cooks" to prepare additional chickens, turkeys and meat loaves for the dinner.
"By all indications, the dinner is going to be bigger than last year," Thornton said. "The toy donations I've gotten from the industries this week have put me way up there. It's going to be a busy year."
Thornton can be reached to make additional donations by calling 236-0222. Families seeking assistance can also call..