BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A 13-year local tradition of helping community kids buy gifts for their families is in a perilous jam.
The Santa Store, which ran out of the old Kum & Go gas station owned by former Mayor Brad Randolph last year, is again looking for a new home. The operation has run out of local churches and former schools in the past, but now is looking for something a bit more steady.
The store takes donated gift items and displays them for community children to come in with a donation and pick out gifts to be wrapped and put under the Christmas tree. Funds from the operation go to support PAW Animal Shelter.
But after the 2020 event, all the remaining gifts, tables, wrapping paper and other supplies were stored at the former Chamber of Commerce building on Ninth Street.
But that building has since been sold and is being rehabilitated for retail space and the Santa Store belongings all had to be moved into a storage rental.
Sandy Brown, Director of PAW, and coordinator of the Santa Store, said now profits from the event are being used to pay rent, when they could be utilized for animal shelter operations.
“It’s not an atrocious rent and we’re fine with that, but if we can’t find a place by Oct. 1 to have the Santa Store, so we have time to set it up and do it, then it will be gone,” Brown said.
“And I don’t think it’s like we’re gonna skip a year and then come back, because at that point it’s probably going to be done.”
Brown said it takes a lot of work to organize, set up, operate, and tear down the event each year. And constantly having to move the event to different locations is tiring.
“The community loves it, the kids love it and we love doing it,” she said.
“But I’m 13 years older than when we started doing this for the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau), and I can tell you it’s a huge deal having to pack everything up, move it, unpack it, set it up, tear it down, pack it up, store it all, and then be looking at moving it all again. Looking at moving this again… before we even start, is exhausting.”
Brown said they are looking for a place to hold the event where they won’t necessarily be required to move it every year. She said usually every couple of years, and lately every year, the group has had to move the operations from one place to another.
“Basically, if you want to sell your building let Santa Store store their stuff there. What the store needs, if it’s to continue, is a place to hold it for several years,” she said.
The store would require electricity and water, but she said parking they can work around. They also need some wide open spaces to be able to put up more than 24 long banquet tables as well as setting up a wrapping area.
Brown said she understands that most people are looking to sell or rent the buildings that are vacant and they understand that as being good for the community when they are sold and business is brought to the community.
“But if you have one of these open buildings, we’re looking. And we also can provide a receipt in the amount of your rent for a tax deduction. We’ve been doing that and can continue to do that. We’re 100% tax deductible. And if your building is sitting empty, you’re not getting anything.”
Anyone with property that could be considered to keep the Santa Store going should contact Brown at PAW Animal Shelter at 319-372-2274.