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TMCNet:  Salvage Santa needs bike donations

[November 21, 2012]

Salvage Santa needs bike donations

PANAMA CITY, Nov 21, 2012 (The News Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Santa's workshop is closer than you think.

For the last 29 years, Mike Jones has been repairing and refurbishing thousands of broken toys and beat up bicycles from a small shed behind his house on Hillsboro Avenue in Panama City.

Through the program "Salvage Santa," the like-new bikes and toys are then distributed by Early Education and Care as Christmas presents to needy children in Bay County.

"There are a lot of kids in this world that don't have anything," said Jones, a retired investigator with the Panama City Police Department. "It makes you feel pretty dadgum good when kids don't have anything and you can give them a Christmas." With the holiday season here, Jones is back in full gear, spending nearly all of his spare time in his workshop, fixing up about a dozen bikes on his days off from his job as the chief of safety, security and campus police for Bay County Schools.


"September through December you won't find me anywhere else but this building," Jones said Tuesday as he tinkered with a blue "Hyper" bike donated from Wal-Mart. "I just need to replace the front brake cable and add a couple of brake parts and it's a pretty nice little bicycle. It's going to be a cool looking bike when I'm done." Jones said this year at least 300 Bay County children will receive a salvaged bike for Christmas.

The idea for Salvage Santa first came when Jones was working a part-time security job at Sears.

"I was working at Sears part time and that's where it all started," Jones said. "They had some toys come in that were damaged and I said, 'What are you going to do with all those toys ' " When he was told the toys would be crushed and thrown away, he immediately offered to take the toys home and make them new again.

With Christmas quickly approaching, Jones is once again seeking bike donations from the community. Old bike donations can be dropped off at Jones's house at 2715 Hillsboro Ave. off Transmitter Road between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

"This program would not be possible without the people of Panama City. We have the most givingest people here in Bay County," Jones said. "It takes a lot of work, that folks really don't know about, to make a program like this work." Jones is also the author of the book "Salvaged Santa," which reflects on the Bible verse Proverbs 3:5. The verse advises "trust in the Lord with all your heart," something that Jones needed to do through the tough times in his life that came with being a single parent, losing loved ones and defending hostages during the 2010 Bay County School Board shooting.

"God got me through all of that," Jones said. "He's going to take care of you no matter what." Jones will be at Wal-Mart in Callaway Friday signing his book from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He also encourages those interested in supporting Salvage Santa to eat lunch at the Red Elephant in Panama City on Nov. 29, as the restaurant will donate 10 percent of sales to the program.

"The people of Bay County make Salvage Santa," Jones said. "I don't make it, I just fix the stuff, you know." ___ (c)2012 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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