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Santa to Make Early Stop in Washington, Illinois

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's no secret that Santa Claus is a master of fulfilling wish lists.

But this year, he's helping the Dear Santa Program meet the needs of tornado victims in Washington, Illinois.

"In seeing the news stories, it was obvious that everything was leveled, and they really needed some extra Christmas magic," said Lori Philipp, the program's founder. She and Santa were at the Oakland Road Hy-Vee on Saturday, collecting donations to take with them to Washington.

The Dear Santa Program has been delivering gifts to area families in need - more than 130 every year - for more than a decade.

"We buy the gifts that they need, we wrap them, and our friend Santa helps us deliver them," Philipp said.

So when they saw a need for the bare necessities in Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Clause decided it was time to get organized.

"Santa and Mrs. Claus asked us, The Dear Santa program, if we could help them, and we decided to borrow a trailer from a local business, Pro Tow, and they're also offering their trucks to pull the trailer around, and people are kindly bringing all sorts of donations," Philipp told us. "We're taking household toys, clothing for adults and children, just about anything except large furniture. And we're going to take Santa, the reindeer, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and the whole bit, and fly down there with the trailer and try to make everyone's Christmas a little merrier."

They'll be working with local law enforcement and disaster relief officials to make sure that happens, even in the biting cold.

"Well, they're from the North Pole, so this is like summer to them," said Philipp.

Santa will be making more stops in the coming days, and he will be accepting donations to take to Washington at the following dates and locations:

- Dec. 18th, 5-7 PM @ Edgewood Rd. HyVee
- Dec. 19th, 5-7 PM @ US Bank in downtown Cedar Rapids
- Dec. 20th, 6-8 PM @ Bushwood Bar & Grill

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