Each year around October, the Positive Thinkers organization of Mountain City begins their annual Santas Helping Hands Project, which has helped hundreds of struggling families ensure a merry Christmas for their children. Although the project was originally a joint effort of several organizations such as the Beta Theta as well as sponsors from Danny Herman Trucking, DHS, CIT and Farmers State Bank, by 1999 the only group remaining was the Positive Thinkers, who took the project and have been met with growing success since.
Essentially Santas Helping Hands is a community project, designed to give parents a helping hand for Christmas. Beginning in the fall, individuals fill out an application to receive assistance from the program. Most are parents who are struggling and despite their best efforts may not have funds enough to buy Christmas presents for their children. Usually everyone that applies will receive assistance, except for circumstances where the parents are already receiving similar assistance from other civic organizations.
Typically the Positive Thinkers will help around 100 families and approximately 200 to 250 children each year. Once the applications are in, the names of the children are placed on stockings to be hung at various community banks. Individuals from the community adopt the names and work to purchase gifts for the child. Eventually all the gifts come in and a day is scheduled for the parents to pick them up.
Santas Helping Hands was initially called The Santa Box and was started by the Beta Theta Club more than 20 years ago. Back then after selecting the names of the family or child, the gifts would be deposited at the courthouse in big paper wrapped boxes for the Beta Theta to deliver.
As more and more organizations and sponsors became involved, the project grew. Much of the early work was done by employees of Sara Lee, now Parkdale Mills, and eventually toys and clothing were stored to be used from year to year. The Positive Thinkers was founded in 1990 and consequently began participating that year, helping to distribute the presents.
Yet, involvement in the project began to diminish as the various sponsors began to have trouble organizing the project and assuring that the right families received the gifts. As each group left, the Positive Thinkers began taking a more active role in the project, focusing on families that really needed assistance and establishing a goal of not simply providing all of the gifts for a particular family but rather supplementing gifts from the parents.
A screening process of applications was also used to make sure that the gifts were going to locations to do the most good. Through pure experience the Positive Thinkers managed to fine tune the project and since fully taking over in 1999 have seen hundreds of grateful families benefit from the kind actions of a caring community.
According to incoming president of the Positive Thinkers, Christy Joiner, This is a wonderful project done by a great organization. We work hard every year and have seen great success. With all expectations of continuing the effort, Santas Helping Hands is sure to bring year after year of joy and appreciation to those giving and receiving alike.