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Santa Train is coming to Marion County

Posted on Friday, February 23, 2024 at 11:25 am


The Santa Train is coming to Marion County for their annual Christmas visit bringing merry good times, cheer, and holiday spirit to those in need.

Santa Train 2022 volunteers

This special event for families who cannot afford Christmas presents for their children is a deeply personal mission for current organizer Crystal Nugent. Upon starting employment with the Sheriff’s Department many years ago, Nugent was handed the reins of the Santa Train and has devoted herself to the cause every year since. Nugent along with officers and other volunteers, donate their time to bring presents to needy children along the Santa Train route every year for Christmas, accompanied by Santa himself.

Every year they receive donations from churches, businesses, and the community throughout the year to ensure every child can enjoy the Christmas spirit and unwrap presents on Christmas Day. Clothing, toys, and monetary donations are all accepted. The organization is gearing up for the big day with a donation booth, shopping day, and arranging volunteers and submissions for families in need.

Families that are approved for the program’s event are contacted and Nugent takes down all the information for each family. The metrics of each child are detailed including their likes, dislikes, favorite things, and items they need the most. These basic details are later shared with volunteers for the shopping night. All personal information is kept private and only basic details like age, sex, and sizes are shared with volunteers shopping.

The events kick off on Black Friday, November 24 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Jasper’s Downtown Square. Donations of clothing, toys, supplies, and monetary donations will all be accepted by the Sheriff’s department and organization. Everyone is encouraged to visit and donate, every little bit counts. All monetary donations are used during their shopping night at Walmart on December 5, at 5 p.m. where volunteers receive shopping lists to purchase items the organization did not receive in the donations.

The items for individual children are bagged with the shopping list and are wrapped per child then labeled. Nugent goes through meticulously accounting for the needs of all the children. If a child needs more clothes than toys, extra donated toys may be added to that child. Additionally, any late submissions may draw from the surplus in donations. For example last year more than 50 children received toys from the extra donations not purchased during the shopping day.

The giving does not end there as Nugent takes stock of the leftover items after the holiday season. Any additional school related items are donated to the elementary schools for immediate use rather than sitting in the storage room.

Though this tradition began long before Nugent, the Santa Train continues to grow and support the community under her supervision. She ensures that all families’ needs are met and goes the extra mile to make certain even those residing in hard-to-reach areas not covered by the regular route are visited by her and Santa before the normal route. This year on December 23, Marion County families can look forward to seeing Santa and the Santa Train rolling through delivering all the presents to every child in need.


-Photos of Santa Train 2022 courtesy of Crystal Nugent


The Marion Tribune – November 23, 2023