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Coming home for Christmas

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Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:30 pm

As Christmas approached last month, Santa Claus was close to not having a place to return home to. 

Santa Claus in this case is better known as Clyde Puckett. The 77-year-old Manor resident has passed out candy at elementary schools and parades in Manor as the man in the red suit. 

“He looks like Santa Clause. He has a white beard and white hair,” said Steve Banda, ministry leader at Family Worship Center in Elgin. 

“Clyde’s always been one of those people that would always give, and it’s always been that way. He’s always looked for opportunities to serve.”

Banda became more aware of the local St. Nick late last year. 

Puckett had gone into the hospital to undergo a triple bypass surgery. As he was recovering, plans began for getting him released, including looking at his living conditions and his ability to take care of himself. 

That’s when Santa’s path home hit some turbulence.

“They basically didn’t feel like he could live in (the trailer home he lived in) anymore,” Banda said. 

“The boards were rotted out. The roof was leaking and a pretty dismal situation.”

Once it was clear Puckett couldn’t continue to live there, a friend of Puckett and fellow member of Banda’s church stepped up with what began as a small thought.

“One of the first ideas was we just were willing at least to put up a little shelter so he could say it was better than what he got,” said Banda. 

“That started as that idea, and you know we really are just striving for excellence in all that we do and to honor the Lord and honor his name, we decided to go a little bit farther than that and ended up doing the whole nine yards.”

Soon afterward, the project took off as volunteers and donations came flying in.

“There were a lot of men in the church that volunteered. There was probably I’m going to guess 35-40 people that volunteered to help on that project,” Banda said. 

“We collected material donations and financial donations to be able to build it. I think we had maybe a couple of hundred dollars that we paid out. Other than that, everything else was free. Everyone volunteered. “

Vintage Construction, Parker Lumber, McCoy Lumber and Lowes Home Improvement were some of the businesses that helped with discounts or material. Volunteers also helped with framing, infrastructure, Sheetrock and other ways.

 “We were determined to do a quality product,” Banda said. 

“Every piece came together at the right time. When you don’t know what was going to happen and we were struggling to get something done, the right person would show up at the right opportunity.”

In the end, the community’s efforts resulted in a one-room efficiency house. The home includes carpet, air conditioning units, two porches, washer and dryer hookups, metal roof and siding, bathroom and living quarters.

Then, on the weekend of Christmas Eve, Puckett was brought to see his new home.

“We ended up giving it to him as a Christmas present from the church,” Banda said.

“He was speechless when he received it.”

Eventually though, Puckett was able to put his shock into words. 

“When he got there, he said, ‘I didn’t know what was going on. I was thinking there might be a funeral I didn’t know about,’” Banda said, with a chuckle.

Puckett isn’t living at his new home full time yet. He’s primarily residing with family as completes his recovery. Banda says though that Puckett is probably right on track to fully recovering. If so, Santa might indeed be home soon.

“(Puckett) would say how fortunate he was to be able to get that, but I really want to emphasize that we were just as fortunate to be able to do that,” Banda said. 

“It was truly a blessing to our church. It was a blessing to the people that were able to participate in this and see it happen.”

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