THURSDAY, NOV. 12, 2009

‘Hillyard Santa’ seeks toys that bring kids holiday cheer

Clyde Decker is known all over Spokane as “Hillyard’s Santa.”

In his bright red polo shirt and Hillyard Pride hat, he inspires the community all year with unmatched dedication to making Christmas special for kids in low-income families in Spokane’s northeast neighborhoods.

In 2008, Decker brought gifts to more than 700 children on Spokane’s North Side – a record. But his 2009 goal – to get holiday gifts to 750 kids from infants to 16-year-olds – is running into trouble. Despite his efforts at every community meeting, gathering and festival, this year he’s coming up about 200 gifts short.

All year long, Decker and his supporters present heart-tugging stories about how gifts for kids in local families make a big difference in their lives. People are moved to donate cash and presents to Decker and “his kids.”

Other stories about surprising donations and discounts from local businesses inspire the community to help out, including:

•Hillyard’s Bank of America manager, whose branch is a central place for volunteers to hand out presents Dec. 11 until Christmas.

•Members of the local Community Health Association of Spokane clinic, who verify income status and provide vouchers to needy families.

•The Walgreens at Wellesley Avenue and Crestline Street, which offers big discounts on Decker’s purchases.

•Hillyard Kiwanis Club in 2008 donated substantial cash support and provided volunteers to distribute gifts.

• Hillyard Safeway and other businesses on Hillyard’s newly rebuilt Market Street were strong supporters during the holiday season in the past.

At a recent lunch at Ma Barker’s Restaurant, Decker described a couple of mothers who burst into tears when they picked up presents for their children last year. With almost no income, they had no other way to give their kids a sense of the holidays.

He told his friends, “I’m getting old, and was almost ready to stop this year. But how can you stop when you see the difference just a little bit of effort can make in peoples’ lives?”

Lynn Moore and Bobie Lassiter, operators of Ma Barker’s, 5012 N. Market St., signed up right away. They volunteered their cafe as the central point for donations of money or gifts for the kids. If you’d like to donate, call Decker at (509) 220-2885 or contact Ma Barker’s at (509) 999-8055 or (509) 209-6801.

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