Real-life Santa: Army vet, 80, has made Christmas toys for kids in need for 50 years

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Lee County man crafts hundreds of wooden toys for children in need for Christmas

SANFORD, N.C. -- For Jim Annis, Christmas is about giving.

The 80-year-old Army veteran has helped Santa out every holiday season for the past 50 years by creating wooden toys.

Annis spends most of his days carving, sculpting and sanding blocks of wood into toys.

"When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys," said Annis. "It feels like you're sort of forgotten about at Christmas time."

Annis donates nearly 300 toys to the Salvation Army of Sanford. Other than the wooden scraps he gets from nearby homeowners, he pays for everything else out of pocket, but it's not about the money. He remembers waking up Christmas morning with no gifts to open.

"Between the wheels and paint, I spent about $1000," said Annis. "My dad he worked, but didn't make a lot of money. It's hard to have a big Christmas with five kids."

Annis makes small and large cars, dolls, piggy banks, tractors and firetrucks. He's been going strong for 50 years and hopes to keep this tradition going another 50 years.

"I love when people ask me how much do I get paid for making these toys. I tell them my pay is when I see the smile on kids' faces," said Annis. "I hope to be able to do this until my toes curl up."