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Continuing the story of ‘Mountain Santa’

The legend of the “Mountain Santa” began over 40 years ago with Christian and kid-at-heart Mike Howard, who felt led to gather and hand-deliver toys to those across Harlan County. Although he lost his battle with cancer nearly two years ago, his will to serve lives on through his son Jordan Howard, known as “Mountain Santa Jr.”

“Dad started out with one truck back in 1975 — him and my mother were dating at the time. He would get toys and stuff that had to be fixed up and cleaned,” Howard said. “He said he wanted to make a difference. He prayed about it and that’s what the Lord wanted him to do.”

Howard said he now has 125 trucks to deliver toys to children across the county, who may not get much during the Christmas season.

“It’s picked up every year. We have people sending us stuff from Mississippi, Louisville, North Carolina. We have a group coming from Mississippi tonight bringing us a van-load of toys,” he said.

Howard said he and his volunteers normally conduct five runs each year, beginning on Dec. 14 and lasting until Christmas Eve to deliver the toys and treat bags.

“The only places we don’t cover are Cawood, Evarts and Cumberland,” Howard said, adding he plans on expanding to those areas in the future.

By the time donations are taken in and he has worked around the clock to get the trucks ready, Howard will have anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 gifts to deliver.

“We buy 7,000 apples and oranges, 14,000 Reese’s cups, 3,500 Kit Kat bars, 3,600 bags of chips and about $2,000 worth of loose candy to make treat bags,” Howard said, mentioning the 15 volunteers ready to help at the drop of a hat.

Howard said when he was growing up, he loved watching his father fix up toys and put on the Santa suit to bring joy to everyone in the county, adding he could go out to the workshop with his father and “play with any toy you wanted to” while his father tinkered.

“It’s the Lord that does it. I’m just glad I’m in the shoes to do it,” he said. “If the Lord didn’t put it on people’s hearts to give and donate, we couldn’t do it. Could not do it.”

If you would like to donate to the Mike Howard Santa Claus Fund, send your donations to Mountain Santa Jr. (Jordan Howard) at P.O. Box 712 in Wallins or April Galloway at 268 Santa Lane, also in Wallins.