Holidays are a time for giving and helping others. Marking 37 years of delivering toys and treats to Harlan County children, Mike “Mountain Santa” Howard says he is looking forward to seeing all the smiling faces with this year’s deliveries beginning on Dec. 15.
Always looking for ways to help those less fortunate throughout the year — especially during the holiday season — Howard said you’ll be surprised how wonderful it will make you feel when you take the time to reach out to another person.
He said the holiday season can be a difficult time for some people, especially now with so many coal miners laid off.
“This year I’ll be making five runs,” said Howard. “I’ll go into hollers and communities in Cawood, Mary Helen, upper and lower Elcomb, Sunshine, Baxter, Loyall, Rio Vista, Dayhoit, Tremont, Sawbrair, Pathfork, Black Star and on Christmas Eve I always get Wallins Creek, Happy Top, Coldiron and Dixie Town.”
“I begin my runs on Dec. 15 and finish on Dec. 24,” said Howard, 59, of Wallins. “Last year we gave away over 100 truck loads of toys, along with treats. I have people who come from Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisville and Knoxville, just to name a few, to help me deliver the toys.”
Howard said there are lots of ways in which you can make a difference to a poor or shut-in person. He said it’s a simple matter of taking the time and putting forth the effort.
“Just a toy to unwrap or a treat bag to an elderly or disabled person can mean the world to them,” said Howard. “I have been so blessed throughout the years with God always providing toys and donations to help make Christmas in the mountains just a little more special for the less fortunate. Without the generosity of Harlan County people, along with churches, individuals and organizations across the nation, this event would not be possible each year.’
“My heart fills with love when I think about all that kindness being sent to make someone else’s Christmas just a little better,” he said.
Howard said when you see kids “tearing wrapping paper off toys and their faces light up like Christmas trees” you know it is all worthwhile. He said it’s then you realize all the many hours you’ve put into making the event happen were not wasted.
Not only does Howard do his annual Christmas event, but he visits the Harlan County Detention Center twice a week where he talks to inmates about the Lord and plays his guitar and sings. He also visits the Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center twice a week and the Laurels each Sunday.
“Every Sunday, I take 100 cups of ice cream, milk shakes, bananas, moon pies, meat skins, popcorn, soda, Reece Cups — a truck load of stuff to both nursing homes,” said Howard. “It costs me $150 per week, but God has always provided that amount of money for me every week. I missed two Sundays in the last 33 years when I first began this ministry. The residents look forward to this every Sunday. It’s a treat to them that some may not have and a real blessing to me to be able to help in some small way.”
Howard will host a roadblock on Saturday at the Wallins stop light from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. to receive donations to help pay for treats to give out on Christmas.
He said 35 items will be placed in each treat bag given away this year.
“I’ve already ordered the treats because I know God will provide just like he always has,” said Howard. “I take treats to the High Rise (Apartments) in Harlan, Comprehensive Care Center, the nursing homes, the jail and those who are disabled, shut-in or retired. My wish is that everyone will remember to give this Christmas season because by giving you will make someone’s Christmas just a little brighter.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com