It didn't take long for Secret Santa of Jackson County to be rescued.
The Jackson County Gear Grinders announced Wednesday morning, Sept. 6 that the organization had committed to taking over the Secret Santa of Jackson County program, which has provided Christmas gift bags for needy children in Jackson County for the past 29 years.
Just late last week, the long-time Secret Santa leaders, Jackson residents, Tom and Loretta Jones, publicly announced they would not be able to continue the program due to health problems. Furthermore, they announced they had not been able to find any person or group to take over the program or even a location to serve as a new workshop/distribution center.
However, the voids have officially been filled by The Jackson County Gear Grinders group, a non-profit independent organization which describes itself an "automotive-based club with a focus on community projects and events." The club has organized and conducted numerous cruise-ins and car shows, but has also carried out community projects, including organizing and conducting the annual Jackson Christmas Parade and conducting a Christmas Toy Drive.
The Jackson County Gear Grinders announced the news on its Facebook page on Wednesday following a club meeting. While the basic mission will remain the same, the former Secret Santa of Jackson County will now be known as "Geared Up For Christmas," which will help establish the fact the sponsoring organization is a new one. Gear Grinders President Alex McWilliams reported he had consulted with Secret Santa of Jackson County founder Stan Lewis on the matter and it was agreed for legal and technical reasons that a name change was advisable.
The Gear Grinders' Facebook post read, in part: "We are proud and honored to announce that the Secret Santa program will continue under our direction. This was a decision that was not made lightly and we will give it our full attention, along with help from the community. Secret Santa has been in our area for 29 years and has provided Christmas for children ages infant to 19 who may have otherwise not been able to receive anything, through the help of donations.
Knowing that we had the facility, the desire, and the means to continue making Christmas morning special for over 1,000 local children each year, we simply could not allow the program to end without offering our help."
"The guys made this decision this morning [Wednesday], and we are excited to do this signature project for Jackson County and add to the tradition with our own spin on things," Gear Grinders spokesman Tom Long told The Telegram. The club will use its clubhouse (the former Jaycees Building), located on Crossland Street in Jackson, as the Secret Santa workshop and distribution center.
"We have the facility to make this happen and Secret Santa is not going to die," Long declared.
Both Long and McWilliams indicated the Gear Grinders want to cooperate and coordinate with other organizations or projects which provide Christmas gifts to local needy children, to ensure that as many families and children are served as efficiently as possible.
Prospective recipient families are welcome to send request letters now to the following address: Jackson County Gear Grinders, c/o "Geared Up For Christmas," P.O. Box 8, Jackson, Ohio, 45640. Long also said that past donors will be contacted by letter requesting their continuing support. It's anticipated there will be drop-off locations for gifts as in the past.
Those who wish to get more information may call Gear Grinders President Alex McWilliams (740-577-1020) or member Tom Long (740-988-7374).