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Who is the Norwalk Santa?

12/6/2017

It’s you, and you, and you and you and you…

The Santa suit gets slightly hot in July, but Tom Guthrie distributes gifts to people in need all 12 months of the year.

The woman had been kicked out of her apartment, was living on the street and was unable to get in the homeless shelter. If she could get to Indianola, she had a place to stay, but the needle on her car’s gas gauge was lodged on “E.”

“Everything the woman owned was in the front seat of her car,” remembers Tom Guthrie. “And her two kids were in back.”

The beard Guthrie wears is naturally white, and he enjoys helping people like the woman mentioned above. But even though, he helped her get to Indianola, get an apartment, and have furniture, he insists he isn’t the Norwalk Santa — a Facebook page dedicated to helping the needy.

A few years ago, Guthrie found out a friend was adopting families and helping them with Christmas presents. He liked the idea and asked how he could get involved.

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“I thought I’d jump on board and try and spread the network,” he says.

He donned a leftover Santa suit he had from serving at a local charity event, and he posted the needs of the families he adopted on social media. He couldn’t believe the response.

“I was amazed on how much people wanted to give,” he says. “It was awesome. It was overwhelming. The generosity that is in our community is outstanding.”

Guthrie became greedy to give, so he kept it up, even after Santa season was over.

“I had a nurse friend who asked if I’d be a Santa to this little boy,” says Guthrie. “I said, ‘Sure.’ ”

Jonathon was about 1 year old. He had been born with half of a heart. Guthrie donned the suit and visited.
“I didn’t really know what I had in store until I saw that,” he says. “I walked out of there a different person.”
Within a year, Jonathon had passed away. But the family’s courage, faith and positive attitude, paired with the boy’s happy heart, left an impression.

“I would have paid to have done that,” he says. “I can’t get enough of that.”

He started a Norwalk Santa Facebook page last winter. Now he regularly posts anonymous needs of strangers, and people always answer the call.

“I have requested something and had two or three of them within 30 minutes,” he says. The extra stuff is stored at local watering holes, Gregg Young Chevrolet and at other donated spaces.

“People love to give,” he says. “It makes them feel good.”

He estimates Norwalk Santa and his helpers have helped about 100 people in a year.

“This is a gift,” he says of the beard, the Santa suit and the ability to help. “I want to use this. God gave me this, and I want to use it. If I can put a big smile on a little face — and I’ve seen tears in parents’ eyes — that’s what I want to do.”

Some of his biggest supporters say that asking for help isn’t anything to be ashamed of. After all, what goes around comes around, and everyone needs a hand from time to time.

Someone once stuffed a hundred dollar bill in Guthrie’s hand and told him of being a boy with a sick father.

“I don’t want anyone to know that I gave this,” said the man to Guthrie. “My favorite holiday season was when my dad was too sick to help work in the fields, but the neighbors from all around came and helped with the harvest, and they came together and helped with Thanksgiving dinner, and they helped with our Christmas. That was the best Christmas I ever had, and now I want to help somebody.”

As a school bus driver, Guthrie’s beard draws suspicion from the elementary school kids. The children ask if he’s Santa, but he denies it.

“I don’t want to be known as the Norwalk Santa,” he says. “Anybody who gives is the Norwalk Santa.” ♦

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