BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It almost didn’t come to pass.
The annual Santa Store where area children can purchase gifts for their family for a donation to PAW Animal Shelter was almost canceled this year due to the coronavirus.
But PAW Director Sandy Brown found a Christmas elf in the form of former Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph, who donated space at the former convenience store at 2nd Street and Hwy. 61 near the BNSF bridge.
“Just a huge shout out to Brad Randolph because if it wasn’t for him, this wouldn’t have happened this year,” Brown said.
“He got that whole place cleaned up, put in new dry wall, put in a bathroom and it’s ready to go and he’s allowing us to hold the Santa Store when we thought we were going to have to cancel.”
The event has been held at the St. Paul Lutheran Church the past few years, but the church has limited access due to COVID-19 concerns. Brown said because of the time required to secure another place, the effort is now behind schedule.
Volunteers will be at the former gas station on Friday from 9 a.m to 7 p.m. to collect donated items for the store. People wishing to donate can bring the items and just drop them off inside the door and leave.
However, Brown said she is currently looking for volunteers to help during store hours.
Those will be Saturday and Sunday Dec. 12 and 13th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 20th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those hours are for children ages 3 to 15. From 2 to 4 p.m. on the 20th the store will be open to the public.
Masks are required at the store this year and families must bring their own. Brown said things will look just a bit different than in the past… as is the case with most things this holiday season.
Families will drive up to the site and a volunteer will come out and collect the money. The kids will be given a number and the volunteer will take down a phone number that will be called when the children’s number is ready and a volunteer will come out and bring the kids in.
Brown asked that all lists are ready before the kids enter the shop as space and time will be limited. Each child will have 15 minutes to shop for six gifts for a $5 donation. If the child has more than six to buy for, they can go back outside and get in line again.
Wrapping will also only be done for gifts that go to whomever drove the child to the store. Other wrapping will have to be done at home due to time constraints.
Brown said those interested in volunteering can call her directly at 319-470-3291. People should check the PAW Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PAW-Fort-Madison-Animal-Shelter-179648212052707 for additional donation times and other information.
Donations can include any item that a child would want to shop for loved ones, with the exception of clothing.
“We just want to thank everyone for their patience and we’re happy we can still have it this year. Without Brad’s family, this wouldn’t have happened,” Brown said.