December 21, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Thursday evening children of all ages from Allen County lined up outside Santa’s Toy Shop off the Iola square.
Noses were pushed up against the large storefront windows, as children “oohed and aahed” at the toys that filled the room.
Santa sat on his chair as child after child, some small and some big, sat on his lap to tell him what they would like for Christmas. Santa’s little elves gave each child a toy of their choosing, candy canes, cookies and hot chocolate.
This is the first year for Santa’s Toy Shop. The project was spearheaded by Tracy Keagle, who cleaned each of the hundreds of donated toys and replaced their batteries, with help of donations and at her own expense.
Through Facebook she told her friends and community members about her mission to give every child in the area at least one toy for Christmas.
“She never asked for help,” said Santa’s elf Karen Culver. “If people wanted to help, they did. Everything in here is donated. I am just elated by the amount of children who came out.”
Seeing her determination and kind heart people from all over the county stepped up to the plate and donated more than 600 toys, money, equipment, cookies, hot chocolate and so many more things. Everything in the store — even the store itself — was donated.
The shop, 110 S. Jefferson Ave., is where Audacious Boutique was before relocating to 23 E. Madison Ave., and was temporarily donated by David and Beth Toland.
Christmas music plays from one of the top windows 24/7.
IF A VISIT to Santa’s Toy Shop doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what would. Something of this magnitude would only be seen in a small-town like Iola.
Being from a large city I know this because the only options I ever had was to visit Santa at the mall. I never received cookies or a toy, and in fact my parents had to pay for me to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas – as if they weren’t spending enough money on my presents.
Santa’s Toy Shop is completely free.
In a large city parents don’t have a clue as to whose lap their child is sitting on, whereas in Iola parents know Santa’s identity; Thursday night it was Randy Maple.
New to Iola, Cynthia Brown brought her children to visit Santa. She and her two children, James and Mary, were originally from Kansas City, Mo.
“This is really neat,” Cynthia said. “We started out at the square but Santa’s house was closed. We were told about this place. I have never seen anything like this.”
Mary chose a bunny stuffed animal and James a sword.
Smiles on their faces were priceless and Cynthia said those gifts always will be a reminder of the memories they made at the Iola square that evening.
This act of holiday kindness didn’t come from corporate gain, it came from a tight-knit community who couldn’t fathom the idea of one of its children not receiving a toy for Christmas.
I encourage each family to go to Santa’s Toy Shop and let your kids visit with Santa. If you think your child wouldn’t enjoy a second-hand toy, let me tell you, there wasn’t one child who didn’t have a smile on his or her face Thursday night.
The store will be open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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