The day after Christmas, Santa Claus had one final stop to make in Macon.
Forgoing his traditional sleigh in favor of a fire engine, Santa -- also known as Victor Massey -- and his elves from Kids Yule Love came to the rescue of five children who lost presents in a Christmas morning house fire.
The Collier siblings -- Tieneka, 12; Christopher, 8; Tyliah, 4; Mariah, 3; and Antonia, 1 -- were spending Christmas Eve with their godmother Brittany Hadley at her mothers house. Hadley planned to give her gifts to the Collier kids Christmas morning. But at 4 a.m., she got a call from the fire department, who told her that her house on Village Green Drive had burned to the ground.
I thought at first it was a dream, but it was true, Hadley said. I was just shocked and surprised. We were blessed that no one was home at the time.
According to a Macon police report, the fire is being investigated as arson after the suspect apparently used a crowbar to break into the back door of the house, even though Hadley said she had bars over the windows and doors. The suspect apparently stole items, then set fire to the residence, Hadley said.
News of the fire quickly spread throughout the community. Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, who runs the Christmas toy charity Kids Yule Love, organized a quick toy drive using leftover toys from the organizations annual drive and toys that Allens wife, Diane, purchased. Also, people from the community called Allen, offering to donate toys, food and clothing. A Mercer University police officer, Joseph Calloway, donated a 52-inch flatscreen TV his family wasnt using.
I purchased it five years ago, and it was not being used, he said. Its (because) of their story -- they lost everything.
Massey, dressed as Santa, gathered the Collier children in the living room of their mothers house with five large Hefty bags filled with toys, including race cars, a marbles game, dolls, a baseball bat and ball, a football and other gifts.
Santa heard about what happened to you and felt he had to come by, Massey told the children.
Amanda Lockaby of Macon said she heard about the fire and took time during her lunch break to deliver nail polish and kids jewelry.
They lost everything, and I thought I might as well help out, she said.
Vivian Rhodes gave a bicycle she originally bought for her grandson, who lives in North Carolina. When her grandson wasnt able to visit for Christmas, she decided to donate it to the Colliers rather than take it back to the store.
His mother ended up getting him a bike, she said.
Jennifer Collier, the childrens mother, said she was shocked when she heard about the fire.
I knew there was no one there, and Im thankful for that, she said. Im very blessed to have them here. Im very thankful my kids werent there.
Allen said situations like this are part of Kids Yule Loves mission.
This is the scope of Kids Yule Love, he said. Were year-round. ... We have a lot of volunteers, and its wonderful they came out. Id like to thank the people for coming through like they have always done.
Allen said Kids Yule Love is still seeking clothing for the children and furniture for Hadley. Anyone interested in donating items may contact Allen at (478) 955-4100.