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Unicoi gift drive accepting applications, donations

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Unicoi, Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department and Unicoi Police Department are joining forces to bring smiles to children this Christmas.

The Unicoi Santa Squad Toy Drive is being organized to serve the residents of the Unicoi Volunteer Fire District and applications will be available at the Tourist Information Center (106 Unicoi Village Place) beginning Dec. 2. The final registration deadline is Friday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m.

According to Town of Unicoi Mayor Kathy Bullen, COVID-19 has taken its toll on the community this holiday season.

“Recent COVID-related cancelations of other local toy drives left many families with limited resources and support this Christmas season,” Bullen said. “So when we were approached about a possible partnership to fill that void, we jumped on board.”

An extremely short time frame and limited availability of resources are working against the Santa Squad, but the group believes it can reasonably serve 100-150 children between the ages of 2 and 8. Only 200 applications will be printed and the last 50 to register will be placed on a waiting list in case space becomes available.

Despite the short time frame and limited availability of resources, the Santa Squad is dead set on giving the children of Unicoi a wonderful Christmas.

“We just felt compelled to take care of our neighbors the best we can, ” Unicoi Fire Captain Robert Taylor said. “We want to keep the Christmas magic alive for the kids, that sparkle in their eyes this time of year is worth everything.”

The Santa Squad has already secured, and greatly appreciates, sponsors such as Food City, Summers Taylor and Whistle Stop Deli & Catering, but more will be required to fulfill the needs of the district, according to town officials. Businesses interested in sponsoring the toy drive are urged to contact event coordinators as soon as possible.

Decorated donation jars will be placed around town at Maple Grove, Jones Hardware, Wiseman’s Clothing and Shoes, the Tourist Information Center and other local businesses to give residents a way to contribute to the drive.

Citizens may also contribute to the drive by dropping off a new toy (still in the packaging) at the following locations: Unicoi Walmart, Tourist Information Center, Maple Grove, and Jones Hardware.

According to Town of Unicoi Police Chief Andy Slagle, the Town of Unicoi citizens are the most giving and most tight-knit community he has ever seen.“Our community is the most generous group of people I’ve ever seen,” Slagle said. “I know that with all of us working together we can meet and maybe even exceed our goals and make this Christmas special for the children.”

Applicants must reside within the boundaries of the Unicoi Fire District to qualify as a recipient of the toy drive. Only 150 applications are available and no submissions will be accepted after Dec. 4.

Distribution day will be held at the Tourist Information Center on Sunday, Dec. 20, from 1-5 p.m. using a drive-thru format to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Participants must remain in their vehicles and gifts will be delivered by Santa Squad volunteers.

For more information, visit or follow the town, police department and fire department on Facebook at,,  and, respectively.

To speak with a coordinator, make a donation or volunteer at the distribution event, email [email protected] or contact Robert Taylor at 306-0637.