Toy drive honoring local Santa who died from COVID-19 serves hundreds of kids

Toy drive honoring local Santa who died from COVID-19 serves hundreds of kids

LINCOLNTON, N.C. — Lincoln County residents honored a local Santa Claus after he died from COVID-19 last month, and the city is using the spirit of his life to ensure the coronavirus doesn’t steal the joy of Christmas.

James Helms’ legacy is remembered for giving back to hundreds of children as Santa Jim over the holiday season.

“It takes a lot of people donating to Christian Ministry to make it happen, and it all comes down to today,” said Mitzi Williams, executive director at Christian Ministry.

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Lincoln County’s Christian Ministry is geared up to continue its annual tradition of serving by sharing food by the barrel.

“I’m a single mom and it’s kind of hard sometimes getting Christmas,” said Tammy Taylor, Lincoln County resident. “If it wasn’t for good friends and this, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get them anything or have done much.”

This Christmas is different in the community because Santa Jim is no longer here.

Santa Jim
Santa Jim (WSOC)

“We already had to cancel all of our Santa House activities and our Christmas parade,” said Laura Morris, director of community relations. “And we wanted to do something to honor Jim’s memory.”

They did just that by collecting a lot of toys for children.

“I had a community member reach out to me to say, ‘I have a toy I want to donate, but I’m disabled, and I’m not allowed to drive. I have no way to get it to city hall,’” Morris said. “It was so heartwarming that someone who was doing with so little wanted to also contribute to those who have so little.”

Christian Ministry served about 400 children, which is more than 500 families.

‘Christmas is not going to be normal’: Lincolnton’s Santa Jim dies after battling coronavirus