Santa Joe: ‘It brings joy to me to spread the joy’

Santa Joe meets with children receiving presents Dec. 19. in downtown Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Most children get their Christmas gifts from under a tree, but this year hundreds of children in our area got gifts in a parking garage. It’s a true sign that you don’t have to travel far to find the Christmas spirit. In fact, Santa’s workshop might be right next door.

Just north of the summit city center, there’s a quiet street, with a simple house and an ordinary garage, but tucked away inside is a place where generosity abounds. The chuckle of a Santa bounces around busy workers. The place is Santa Joe’s workshop, the holiday headquarters of a man who never thought he’d be Santa.

“My dad gave me a Santa suit years ago and I just laughed at him and thought, what do you want me to do with this?” Joe Runyon said.

However, Runyon did figure out something to do with that Santa suit. He and his girlfriend dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, went to downtown Fort Wayne and started passing out candy canes. It’s was simple, it was fun and it was just the beginning of a new holiday tradition. He certainly wasn’t trying to be Old Saint Nick. It just kind of happened.

As the Christmas seasons passed by, Santa Joe began to realize candy canes weren’t enough. It’s a much bigger operation now and there’s a lot of work to be done.

Santa Joe and his helpers collected more than a thousand toys this year. Last weekend, all the hard work paid off. In a humble place full of humble helpers, the Christmas spirit warmed up a cold night on Dec. 19. Families lined up in a parking garage downtown to get gifts for children of all ages. The night wouldn’t be complete without getting to see Santa himself.

The man behind it all says the reason he does it is simple.

“After I seen the joy it brought to the kids and the smile on their faces, it brings joy to me to spread the joy,” Runyon said.

For a man who never thought he’d be Santa, he must be doing something right. It’s a reminder to us all that sometimes, the Christmas spirit finds you.

Santa Joe said preparations for next year’s toy give away comes quickly. This Christmas, they wanted to collected one thousand toys. When the time came to hand them out, they had 1,027.

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