Salvage Santa Could Use Your Donations

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For more than 20 years, a local man nicknamed "Salvage Santa" helps less fortunate children in Bay County every Christmas, and he's doing it one bicycle at a time.

Mike Jones said, "Well, back in my day and still today, every kid dreams of having their own bicycle."

Jones says his days with the Panama City Police Department helped inspire his Salvage Santa project.

"I was working at Sears and Roebuck in security, and they were crushing some old toys in there one day. I was working as a child abuse investigator and I said, 'I would like to have those toys because I know some kids I can give those to.'"

Every holiday season the Salvage Santa project distributes anywhere from 100 to 150 bicycles. The project has been so successful it even earned Jones a trip to Chicago to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

"Meeting Oprah Winfrey was one of the highlights of my life."

Jones appeared on the Oprah show in 1995. Oprah named him the “East Coast Santa Claus” for his charitable holiday work with under privileged children.

"Just to be on the show and represent Bay County, and to be able to tell people across the nation about Panama City and what the people here do."

Jones says he wants the Salvage Santa project to continue for years to come.

"I hope to be able to do it until the day I die to be honest with you."

"It warms your heart to see that they're going to get these gifts."

If you'd like to donate a new or used bicycle, stuffed animals or any other toys, call Jones at the Salvage Santa Project, 769-4572.

Jones will be giving the toys away through Early Education and Care, Incorporated on December 18.