Panama City - For Salvage Santa and his elves, it's not looking enough like Christmas. For the last 26 years, Mike Jones has taken old donated bicycles and toys, and made them look like new, before giving them to underprivileged kids. But this year donations are down. So Jones is appealing to the public to pitch-in quickly so he can brighten Christmas for more children.
For nearly three decades Mike Jones has taken old bikes and made them sparkle like new. But this year it's been an uphill battle. "A lot of people who were able to donate before can't this year. Even last year when the recession started it wasn't as bad as it is this year. We had people come to us during the year that lost their job, couldn't afford their car payment, lost their vehicle, then they get a job but couldn't afford a car so they come to us for a bicycle just to get to work," said Jones.
He relies on the donations of Bay County residents both for the used bikes and new and used toys. "I've got alot of bikes to work on but we need board games, baby dolls, fire trucks, cars, puzzles, books. Books are probably the most sought after gift besides a bicycle, believe it or not, people want books for their kids."
Salvage Santa works with Early Education and Care to make sure the gifts go to those who truly need them. "We provide the toys for them and set it up in the Glenwood Center then turn it over to them. Their clients go in and go through just like they would a department store, but instead of stopping at a cash register, it's free," said Jones.
With his white beard and rosy cheeks Salvage Santa may be the face of the program, but he says it wouldn't be possible without you. "This program would not exist if it were not for the people in Bay County trusting us with their gifts and donations and they make it what it is. Salvage Santa is the citizens of Panama City and Bay County, what a giving community. I love em."
If you are interested in helping Salvage Santa, call him at 769-4572. Or drop off a donation or mail a check or gift card to 2715 Hillsboro Avenue. Or you can go to www.salvagesanta.com and donate via PayPal. Red Elephant Pizza is also hosting a fundraiser on December 13th, with 30% of the proceeds going to the Salvage Santa project.