UNICOI — The Town of Unicoi, Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department and Unicoi Police Department are joining forces to bring smiles to children at Christmas.
The Unicoi Santa Squad Toy Drive was organized to serve residents of the Unicoi Volunteer Fire District.
Applications for children age 2-8 who live within the boundaries of the district are available at the Unicoi Tourist Information and Visitors Center and at 106 Unicoi Village Place. The registration deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4.
The first 150 applicants will be registered and an additional 50 applicants will be placed on a waiting list in the event enough resources become available.
The toy distribution will be held at the Tourist Information and Visitors Center from 1-5 p.m., Sunday, Dec 20. The distribution will be conducted in a drive-thru format to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Participants must remain in their vehicles, where gifts will be delivered to them by Santa Squad volunteers.
Even with an extremely short time frame and limited resources, the Santa Squad volunteers believe they can reasonably serve 100-150 children between the ages of 2 and 8.
Unicoi Mayor Kathy Bullen said, “Recent COVID-related cancellations of other local toy drives left many families with limited resources and support this Christmas season. So when we were approached about a possible partnership to fill that void, we jumped on board.”
Unicoi Fire Captain Robert Taylor said, “We just felt compelled to take care of our neighbors the best we can. We want to keep the Christmas magic alive for the kids. That sparkle in their eyes this time of year is worth everything.”
The Santa Squad said it has already secured and greatly appreciates local business sponsors including Food City, Summers Taylor and Whistle Stop Deli & Catering. More sponsors will be needed to meet the need, and other businesses interested in sponsoring the toy drive are urged to contact the event’s coordinators as soon as possible.
For those who wish to help the drive, decorated donation jars will be placed at the Tourist Information and Visitors Center, Maple Grove Restaurant, Jones Hardware, Wiseman’s Clothing and Shoes and other local businesses.
Citizens may also contribute by dropping off a new toy still in its packaging at the following locations: Unicoi Walmart, the Tourist Information and Visitors Center, Maple Grove Restaurant and Jones Hardware.
Unicoi Police Chief Andy Slagle said, “Our community is the most generous group of people I’ve ever seen. I know that with all of us working together we can meet and maybe even exceed our goals and make this Christmas special for the children.”
For more information about the toy drive, visit UnicoiTN.net or the town, the police department or fire department pages on Facebook. To speak with a coordinator, make a donation or volunteer at the distribution, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Robert Taylor at 423-306-0637.