Santa's Elves Spread Christmas Cheer
Christmas came early for seven needy families in Moore County.
Twelve of Santa's elves - young and old - toting bags filled with gifts delivered the presents Friday, arriving at each home riding in a school bus turned sleigh, decorated with red ribbons and homemade reindeer antlers.
"It's pretty cool to go shopping for families knowing that it's going to brighten their Christmas," said Eliza Leis, a teenage helper who delivered the gifts.
The deliveries are the culmination of hard work that began in November with the ninth annual Guest Bartender series at O'Donnell's Pub in Southern Pines.
Each Wednesday, from Nov. 3 to Dec. 15, guests tended bar and raised money for Moore County's Empty Stocking Fund. The money raised helped purchase necessities and gifts for seven families, collectively consisting of eight adults and 27 children.
For the past seven years, Leis has served as one of the "elves," helping to deliver presents. She said she keeps coming back because it is a good feeling to lend a helping hand.
As the bus made its rounds and delivered its presents, it was difficult to tell who was benefiting more, those who received the gifts or those giving them.
"I love seeing the kids' faces when they know that Santa's helpers are here," she said.
As Leis and the others made their way across Moore County, visiting homes in Southern Pines, Aberdeen and Addor, a similar scene played out at each stop.
Helpers piled off the bus lugging bags filled with wrapped gifts for the families.
Inside the recipients' homes, children's eyes twinkled, and their parents teared up as the elves entered and unloaded their gifts.
Swifty and systematically, the gifts were stacked under and around the family Christmas tree. Then, in a flash, they were gone, but not before they wished each family a merry Christmas.
At one home, head elf Patrick O'Donnell told the children, "Santa is so busy, he asked us to help."
The children eagerly asked if they could open their presents, only to be gently told by a parent that they have to wait until Christmas.
O'Donnell and his elves have been helping needy families at Christmas for nearly a decade, and each year it has become more successful as they are able to help more families.
"The fundraiser has done so well the last three years that when we get the lists, look at them to see what we can get, we find that we can get everything on their lists," he said.
Families eligible for the Empty Stocking Fund must be from Moore County and must have children.
Once the gifts are purchased, O'Donnell holds a gift-wrapping party and community dinner. Then the wrapped gifts are loaded up and delivered.
Dr. Todd Zeh, a local chiropractor, has wrapped gifts over the years, but this was the first time he took part in delivering them.
"It's worth it just to see the moms' faces," Zeh said.
It was an experience he shared with his children.
After more than two hours of traveling over the hills and through the woods, the bus - once filled with toys - returned to Southern Pines empty, except for a weary crew of Santa's helpers who received as much as they gave.
Leis said, "It's a nice feeling that you get inside knowing that they are going to get what they wanted."
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story