By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Yukon’s true “Santa” who’s spread Christmas joy to families in need for nearly two decades has been named Volunteer of the Year.
Jim Poe, considered to be the “pillar” of Santa’s Toy Shoppe, was recognized for his annual yuletide efforts during the Jan. 25th Yukon Chamber of Commerce awards gala at the Palace Event Center, 2310 N Banner Road.
Santa’s Toy Shoppe was founded in 2001 to provide toys at Christmastime for children of underprivileged families in eastern Canadian County. Poe has been involved with this charitable effort since its inception and serves as its board president.
Poe was unable to attend last Friday’s gala to accept the Volunteer of the Year award because he is recovering from knee replacement surgery.
“I was down, and this helped bring me up!” Poe said Monday. “I was surprised and I’m very grateful.”
Poe has two priorities in life – Santa’s Toy Shoppe and playing golf. He put off having his second knee replacement surgery last fall because he wanted to make sure Santa’s Toy Shoppe was a success again.
Poe explained why Santa’s Toy Shoppe has been so important to him for almost 20 years.
“Of course, I do it to help the children – but I don’t actually get to see the children,” Poe said. “I do it for all the volunteers who help us. I enjoy seeing their faces when they’ve helped families shop for toys that will provide a brighter Christmas for their kids.
“I also do it for the family that just got laid off and lost their job.”
Poe shared kudos with the many volunteers, businesses, organizations, and individuals who contribute to make Santa’s Toy Shoppe possible each year.
“Thanks to everyone that helped – whether directly or indirectly,” he said.
This long list includes local banks, restaurants, Yukon and Mustang fire departments, the Yukon school district and its Leadership students, tennis, soccer and football teams, city leaders, civic groups, and several longtime residents.
Announcing the Volunteer of the Year award at the Jan. 25th gala was Yukon chamber board member April Bow, of RCB Bank in Yukon.
Bow explained that Poe “exemplifies the very spirit of volunteerism that adds so much to the quality of life within our community.”
Poe has brought “love to so many families” through Santa’s Toy Shoppe,” she noted.
“This individual has spent countless hours soliciting sponsors, coordinating all the volunteers, helping parents find gifts for children who would not have much of a Christmas without Santa’s Toy Shoppe,” Bow said.
“Just last year, Santa’s Toy Shoppe served a total of 1,200 children. Four hundred families were blessed this holiday season.”
Bow presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Trisha Clement, vice president of the Santa’s Toy Shoppe board, who accepted on Poe’s behalf.
Poe also serves on the Yukon Sharing board of directors and has chaired Time of Needs Ministry at the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd. He is a United States Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War era.
The Yukon Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year award is presented to someone who has invested significant time and energy to the betterment of the Yukon community on a volunteer basis.
Poe was honored as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for exemplifying the very spirit of volunteerism that adds so much to the quality of life in the Yukon community.
Poe was cited for his passion to make Christmas brighter for as many children as he can through Santa’s Toy Shoppe.
He looks forward to heading up the effort, which helps get him “in the Christmas spirit” each year.
“I enjoy seeing it all coming together,” Poe said. “I also enjoy the camaraderie of all the people who help, some in small ways and some in large ways.”
Various school and civic groups help organize all the toys before the annual distribution day in mid-December.
Poe tells volunteers that “kids and families that you’ve never met are receiving a benefit that you are providing.”
The Salvation Army came up with the idea for Santa’s Toy Shoppe in the late 1990s and the organization was incorporated in 2001. Over the years, the program has helped spread joy to more than 16,000 youth from newborn to age 15.