By mid-week, Monett's Santa Claus, Linn Thornton, had distributed toys to more than 300 families in the Monett area. In the final days before Christmas, Thornton has worked steadily to get toys to families before shifting his remaining efforts to the annual Christmas Day dinner.
Working with Crosslines, the Monett Jaycees and using major donations from Monett industries, Thornton has spread Christmas joy where holiday celebrations may not have been possible.
"A lot of families need a little something to get through," Thornton said. "When you're running short, and you've got food, lights and groceries to buy and you've not got a whole bunch left for the kids. That's what I'm running into.
"I've stayed away from high priced items this year," Thornton continued. "For the $200 or $300 spent for one family, I can do five or seven others. That way, I can make sure everybody has something."
Thornton ordered table service for his 28th annual Christmas dinner this week. He purchased utensils for 1,200 guests at the First United Methodist Church and containers for 200 shut-ins, whose meals will be delivered.
Thornton's dinner is designed for those who would rather not spend the day alone, those who are unable to make a big traditional meal for themselves, for visitors and anyone who would like to gather in an old-fashioned family setting for Christmas.
"I've had a lot of people call, offering to come and help," Thornton said. "Ladies are going to cook meat loaf, chicken and dumplings, fish and beef. We'll even have ham and beans; good old-fashioned food. Some are bringing cakes and cookies. We're going to have a big spread."
The meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers are welcome to simply arrive at the church and pitch in wherever needed, as early as 9 a.m. Cooks will be arriving earlier.
Requests for a home-delivered meal must be made on Christmas Day. Orders can be placed by calling 417-489-2073, 489-6117 or 236-0222.
Thornton has been rising daily at 4 a.m., putting in two hours at his place of employment, then sitting down to breakfast before "we get busy," referring to himself and his wife, Anna. His days have continued until around 10 p.m., hosting families coming to his home to pick up toys and rounding up donations and supplies for the dinner.
"It's all falling in place," Thornton said. "The weather has cooperated. It's going to be a good Christmas."