Santa is about to get a bad reputation in Charlotte.
There are 12,200 kids expecting to get a Christmas stocking from the big guy this year, but only half that number have been delivered as promised by local donors to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau.
The deadline was Friday. As a result, a slightly panicked Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary is asking the community to pitch in over the next four days by donating enough goodies to fill stockings for 5,000 children, ages 10 and younger.
Toothbrushes are the No. 1 need, say organizers. The auxiliary is also asking for pacifiers, sippy cups, hats for all ages, crayons, jump ropes, card games, small rubber balls, preschooler books and baby-safe stuffed animals.
The Christmas Center is at 801 E. Arrowood Road in a former Walmart building and will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Sunday hours are noon to 4 p.m. The deadline to donate stocking items is 7 p.m. Tuesday, organizers say.
Betty Maxwell of the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary says it’s a mystery why so many churches and volunteer groups didn’t meet the Friday deadline to return the stockings they agreed to stuff.
However, she says, it may have something to do with the fact that Thanksgiving fell later this year, cutting the number of days in the holiday shopping season by nearly a week. That same detail also has the Salvation Army worried about meeting its red kettle goal this year of $435,000 by Christmas Eve.
“We do not want to give Santa a bad reputation,” Maxwell says. “If one brother gets a good stocking filled with stuff and the other brother does not, that child is going to believe Santa doesn’t think very highly of them. People don’t imagine that, but children believe.”
Donors don’t have to worry about stuffing a stocking, she said. “They can leave that up to us.”
The Women’s Auxiliary is hoping for the same kind of community response it got in 2011, when a public plea for rubber ducks resulted in 1,600 being delivered within two days. They continued showing up for a week, as Charlotteans responded to a need they could easily relate to, Maxwell says.
The Christmas Bureau kicks off at 8 a.m. Wednesday, when families will begin showing up at appointed times to pick up a bag of gifts, a stocking for each child, and possibly a bike won through the Spokes Group. Children are not permitted in the center, in hopes parents will credit the gifts to Santa.