The Country Santa, as he has
become known, is John (Buddy) Cox. He
doesn't care to be compared to St. Nick. I am just one of his helpers, he says. Maybe so,
but Cox's list of recipients is now over 3000 kids long.
It all started with one first-grade girl, shortly after Cox and his wife
from Greenville, SC, to tiny Pumpkintown in the northwest corner of the state. The girl
arrived at school needing new shoes, and Cox, a water-waste equipment sales engineer,
heard about her plight and brought her a pair. It was then that he noticed the tattered
condition of her doll. So that Christmas, a replacement doll, the biggest boxed doll I
could find, says Cox - arrived under the girl's Christmas tree.
The next year, with names provided by the elementary schools, Cox provided toys to 10
children. By the fifth year the list had grown so long that Cox began soliciting toys, new
and used, from the area's more fortunate citizens. He signed up volunteer elves to help
In 1986, he built a 900-square-foot warehouse to store toys, which are gathered from
collection points throughout the year. The Country Santa building is also where all the
toys are bagged for delivery. Before the Country Santa building was built, Cox's home
doubled as Santa's workshop. Toys were stacked in every room in the house.
The children's names come to Cox via local schools, churches, and social services
agencies. Others find him, and he screens them himself.
Country Santa doesn't limit the gifts to one toy per
child. Each child get several toys. Cox says "he try's to give about $50.00
worth of new toys but some maybe used. If he has to give used toys, they have to
be in excellent condition.
Cox draws inspiration from his own youth. When he was 10, his dad walked out on the
family, leaving his mother to support Buddy and two older sisters in the rural South
Carolina town of Cross Hill. "She got a job as a bookkeeper, making $50 a week,"
Buddy says, and "I know she struggled to put something under the tree for us at
Christmas. I realized parents can hurt when they can't give their kids something".
The big event starts the Monday after Thanksgiving. First the toys
have to be given, then collected. From there the toys are sorted and bagged in
the Country Santa building. This will start the first weekend after
On Christmas Eve, the bags are loaded on trucks and cars and delivered to the children.
For more information on how you can help, click here.