I think we can all agree that Santa Claus is truly a magical man who has the power to do more work and delight more children in a single night than any mere mortal ever could hope to do.

However, it’s a big wide world out there and even Santa Claus needs a little help to fill the gaps. In Jackson County nobody helped Santa more year after year than the late Loretta Jones of Jackson. Her important role in serving as a surrogate Santa Claus in the community should be recognized at this time as Mrs. Jones died last July 27, at the age of 87.

As the director of the Secret Santa of Jackson County program for 27 dedicated years, Mrs. Jones had a hand in providing more Christmas gifts to local children than anyone else other than Santa himself. In its final years, the program was serving well over 300 children each year, some of whom likely would not have had Christmas gifts at all were it not for the efforts of Loretta, her elves and generous community donors. Under Loretta’s leadership, Secret Santa was one of Jackson County’s foremost charities. Residents made it an annual practice to donate either toys or cash to the cause.

Secret Santa of Jackson County was an unpaid volunteer gig which operated without government assistance or outside grants. Loretta, however, was completely devoted to it and made it work no matter the challenges or obstacles which came along the way. She was practical, resourceful, and a hard worker, and these traits along with her dogged determination enabled her to always get the mammoth job done. She was a CEO and a worker bee in one dynamic package.

Certainly, there was much more to the operation than simply handing out the gift bags the week before Christmas. Through the course of a year, Loretta had to be a strategic planner, a program manager, a budget maker, a personnel supervisor, a careful records-keeper, a solicitor of donations, a public-relations specialist, a bargain-hunting shopper, and a bag stuffer.

Loretta kept directing Secret Santa well into her 80s, partially because she was having trouble finding a person or organization to take the baton. When Loretta let it be known in 2017 that she could no longer continue the program and it was in danger of ending, the Jackson County Gear Grinders soon stepped up to fill the void. Although the program’s name was changed to Geared Up For Christmas for legal reasons, it was a successor program to Secret Santa of Jackson County. The Gear Grinders also deserve a salute for doing a great job in seamlessly taking over the program these past two years.

While Secret Santa was Loretta’s signature project, she was involved in many other community-service activities in the Jackson area. She served as an at-large member of Jackson City Council and was a leader for many years of the Jackson City Tree Commission. She was also a charter member of the Jackson Lioness Club, was a leading member of the Jackson Business and Professional Women’s Club, an active volunteer with the Jackson County Unit of the American Cancer Society, and was a stalwart member of the Grace United Methodist Church of Jackson.

Calling hours for Loretta Jones will be conducted at the Lewis & Gillum Funeral Home in Jackson from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Wednesday evening (August 7) and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday with the funeral set for 1 p.m. at the funeral home. Those who wish to honor her memory and service may wish to make donations to: Grace United Methodist Church, 124 Locust Street, in Jackson.

Santa would approve.

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That’s About It… Be Seeing You.