Mountain Santa is gearing up for Christmas
Joe P.Asher Staff Writer
People from the mountains of southeast Kentucky are familiar with the “Mountain Santa.”
Mike Howard, of Wallins, has earned the moniker over nearly 40 years of charitable work distributing gifts to children and adults every Christmas.
“I’ve been doing this for 38 years,” said Howard. “I started out with one truck and we’re up to 115 (pickup) trucks.”
Howard said nowadays it takes him five runs to distribute all the items donated.
“It takes me 10 to 12 hours on Christmas Eve,” said Howard. “On that day we end up with 28 to 30 trucks just that day.”
According to Howard, he branches out all over the area giving out toys to children on Christmas Eve.
Howard pointed out he does not do this alone.
“The Lord’s blessed me with a lot of help,” said Howard. “We’ve been wrapping toys for over a month.”
Howard said the workers are all volunteers, including his family.
“Last year, I had to put a (Santa) suit on my boy and send 14 trucks his way,” said Howard. “I took 14 or 16 trucks … and we did that for four runs.”
Howard said his initial inspiration came from his brother.
“My brother played Santa Claus in a little store,” said Howard. “I walked in and sat there and watched the kids. The next year I asked him if he was going to do it and he said ‘no.’”
Since his brother was not going to play Santa, Howard decided to collect some toys and give them out.
Howard got the attention of the media about 10 years ago.
“About 10 years ago they did a story on me in Louisville, and the guy called me the Mountain Santa,” said Howard. “There’s been people come from Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Knoxville, Louisville, and they bring all this stuff in. They have truckloads.”
Howard said he tells them to leave the stuff on the trucks, and the next morning it’s distributed.
The activity is funded through donations. Howard occasionally utilizes “road blocks” to help collect donations.
“I had roadblocked this past Friday and Saturday out at the mall (Village Center Mall),” said Howard.
According to Howard, he orders large amounts of items such as chips and suckers before the money comes in and the money is always raised.
Howard takes donations year-round. Anybody who would like to contribute can send a donation to Mike Howard, 268 Santa Lane, Wallins, KY. 40873.
“It still amazes me every year,” said Howard. “I always cry on Christmas Eve because I’ve run out of stuff.”
Howard also takes special food items to the jail, the Laurels and the retirement homes throughout the year.
On Christmas Eve, usually more than 100 people show up to help distribute the toys, according to Howard.
“I’m not going to retire until I get so old I can’t do it,” said Howard. “The Lord has blessed me with good help. There’s good people in Harlan County, and outside of Harlan. People are generous. They know what I do, they see it going up and down the road.”
Howard said he will be holding a roadblock to collect donations of toys and money on Dec. 7 at the Wallins stop light from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, email@example.com
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