As part of its year-long nonprofit endeavors, Santa's List (the Payson Toy Drive) is launching its very first Christmas in July fund-raising campaign today.
Fifteen local businesses have agreed to accept donations to the toy drive and display donors' names on oval-shaped Santa's List logo cards during July. The cards sell for $1, but larger donations are also accepted.
One of the businesses, Wells Fargo Bank, offered to keep a savings account for the donations and to match every dollar Santa's List raises.
"It's a great way to help underprivileged children in the community," Wells Fargo Manager Heather Rockow said. "This is something a lot of people with families and people I work with hold dear to them and we'll encourage as many people as we can. It's a nice way to give back and help those in need."
The money collected during the Christmas in July fund-raiser will be added to what Santa's List has already raised in the first half of the year, according to Santa's List President Scott Smith.
He said once Santa's List completes the year's fundraising, volunteers will go shopping for gifts in mid-December and distribute them a couple of days before Christmas.
Rim Country Mall was last year's distribution center, and while this year's location has yet to be determined, Smith said he can't wait.
"Seeing those kids' faces when they get their presents is the best part," he said.
Smith beamed when he told the story of one particular family that went to the center to pick up their gifts.
He said when the family's 3-year-old boy saw one of his presents, a brand-new bike, he broke down in tears and dropped to his knees, and caused everyone around him, including Smith, to do the same.
"That was great," Smith said. "When you realize how many people you've helped in 15 years, it's amazing."
In 1987, Smith founded the Payson Jaycees, where the toy drive really took root. When the Jaycees folded about eight years ago, Smith and other members decided to keep the toy drive running. They renamed it Santa's List.
Just last year, Santa's List helped about 900 children --n all-time record -- and 50 senior citizens living on a fixed income.
"To have such a small community with so many people in need ... It's scary," Smith said. "We've always saved for a rainy day. Last year was our rainy day. Now, we have no back-up."
He said that last year's demand drained the toy drive's savings and is the reason this year's fund-raisers, like Christmas in July, are so important.
He said he hopes next year's Christmas in July will attract even more businesses. Many businesses refused to help with the donations, Smith said.
"They automatically think they have to donate something," he said. "But it doesn't cost them any money ... One company said, ‘We do enough for you as it is.' It's really surprising."
Smith said he thinks that once businesses see what Christmas in July really is, they will be more likely to help next year.
Brenda Martell, who has been volunteering for the toy drive with her two daughters since it began, was on the receiving end of the donations when she first moved to Payson.
"My youngest does not remember a Christmas when she wasn't working the toy drive," Martell said. "For both of my kids, it's been a way of life for us since we moved to Payson. It has filled many voids and given us the opportunity to get involved in the community and do some great work."
For more information on Santa's List, call Smith at (928) 474-5853.
Donations can be made at these businesses
Ace Hardware & Nursery
Corral West Ranchwear
Planet Video & Music
Rim Country Cellular
Rim Country Kids
Rim Country Lanes
SafeQ Credit Union