Christmas is known as the season of giving and one Kentucky family has done everything they can to give to as many as possible. For an amazing 42 years, Mike Howard was 'Mountain Santa,' a local retired coal miner who would collect and deliver Christmas presents for children who might otherwise get nothing to the children in Harlan County, Kentucky. Mike was known throughout his community as an amazing person who did so much for those in need, and was awarded the 2016 Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities Volunteer of the Year award as well as the 2017 National Volunteer of the Year award through the American Health Care Association. When Mike passed away last year his son Jordan Howard vowed to carry on his father's legacy.
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In the mountains of Appalachia, Santa arrives on the tailgate of a Ford pickup. Mike Howard, a retired coal miner, is known as Mountain Santa, and he’s been delivering Christmas gifts to families in need for 41 years in Harlan County, Kentucky. Pictured here, Juanita Johnson broke down when she saw her friend Mike bring gifts to the Elcomb hollow. 📷: @cjvintagevault . . . #Santa #Appalachia #EasternKy #Eky #Christmas #holidays #sharekentucky #explorekentucky #mykentucky #kentucky #ky #lovekentucky #mountains #family #MountainSanta
It was back in early 2018 that Mike Howard died after battling cancer, his wife Barbara passing away just a mere eight months after her husband. The couple's son Jordan has vowed to keep his parent's memory alive and that his father's legacy as Mountain Santa will continue even after his death. He's been wrapping gifts since Halloween to make sure that children in his community in need will have something to open on Christmas morning. "Everything's still coming together," Jordan told CBS affiliate WYMT News.
MOUNTAIN SANTA: For 42 years, Mike Howard delivered thousands of toys to kids in need. Two years ago, he died – but his legacy didn't, because his son has stepped in to continue the tradition ❤️ #sharethelove https://t.co/k2o9pIDBpc pic.twitter.com/1YXhf0kV8C— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 29, 2019
Jordan said that he had collected about 1000 gifts by mid-November and hopes to have approximately 3500 collected by the time he begins his first run on December 14th. Community members gather in a building known as "Mountain Santa's workshop" to volunteer wrapping toys and gifts that Jordan will distribute to those in need. "Dad told before he passed, he said you gotta have the lord in it, so that's what I'm doing," Jordan said.
For 42 years, Mike Howard of Harlan County, Kentucky, was "Mountain Santa." Dressed in his red suit, he went around the area delivering gifts to children who may not have received presents otherwise. He died two years ago, but his son has continued his legacy.— WDBJ7 (@WDBJ7) November 20, 2019
Source: WYMT pic.twitter.com/SkVsavFdU8
Although it's been a tradition in his family for decades, even Jordan seemed a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of community help. "It's a feeling that you can't describe, you don't think that a community would come together like they have to keep doing this but it's just awesome," he said. "It's something." Jordan said that this is definitely something he's looking forward to. "I'm excited for Christmas, I sure am," he added.
Community members who want to help with Jordan's Mountain Santa initiative can simply show up to his workshop located on none other than "Santa Lane" in Wallins Creek. He'll also be holding local fundraisers to help raise money to purchase more toys.