EASLEY – For more than 30 years, one Pumpkintown resident has been known affectionately as the Country Santa.
Since 1978, Mr. Buddy Cox has helped needy children in the foothills of South Carolina during the holiday season by collecting toys and delivering them on Christmas Eve.
“When I was growing up, we had it a little tough,” Cox said. “But my mom made Christmas special for us and scraped to have some things under the tree for us. She made it a magical time and that stuck with me, so when I moved up here to Pickens County in the seventies, I was fortunate enough to be doing okay to help others.”
Cox said he was inspired to become the ‘Country Santa’ after driving the back roads of Pickens County.
“I drove the back roads during one of my first Christmases up here,” he said. “I saw kids on these back roads that reminded me of what I had gone through as a kid, and I just couldn’t enjoy Christmas at my house knowing that those kids didn’t have anything.”
According to Cox, he first began helping kids out of a local school.
“I started helping kids out of Ambler Elementary School the first few years and teachers started calling me and giving me the names of kids who were really needy,” Cox said. “I delivered to 15 or 20 kids the first number of years by myself, but word grew what I was doing and people started donating.”
Cox said the volunteers have made it possible to help so many.
“People started volunteering to help and the next thing I knew, we were helping hundreds and hundreds of needy kids,” he said. “Last year, we helped 3,100 kids in about four or five counties and we’ve been up around 3,000 kids for the last seven or eight years.”
Based on donations left at over 50 drop locations in the Upstate, Cox is able to provide toys to area kids.
“We have over 50 drop locations in the Upstate,” Cox said. “Zaxby’s is one of our main ones, and the Dollar General stores. We have built up a strong base of supporters over the years from the churches and different types of organizations that have stepped up to the plate to help us.”
The Easley Progress is also a drop site.
Cox said the program delivers between $150,000 and $180,000 worth of toys.
“We usually average about $50 or $60 of toys per kid,” he said. “When you multiply that out by 3,100 kids, you are looking at $150,000 and $180,000 worth of toys.”
According to Cox, the toys are delivered on the morning of Christams Eve beginning at 7 a.m.
“We deliver them on Christmas Eve morning,” Cox said. “We have hundreds of people that show up to help deliver the toys and a lot of them are families that do it as a tradition. We have elves (drivers) that delivered over 1,900 Hefty bags last year that went out to needy kids over four counties.”