Bringing joy to the mid-valley

Local Santa delivers Christmas spirit

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Christmas Eve may be the one day Santa spends delivering presents to children, but he’s already been busy for a month delivering gifts to parents.
Right after Thanksgiving up until Christmas Eve, Chris Campbell can be seen driving through Lebanon, and as far out as Corvallis or Yamhill, in his Santa suit. His sleigh (ahem, truck) carries fresh-cut Christmas trees and boxes of holiday décor for those in need.
Campbell and his wife, Jeannette Campbell, host a Facebook page, “Pay it Forward Christmas,” as a platform for gathering donated holiday supplies and inviting people to make their holiday needs known.
“Everybody goes through a rough patch, and my wife and I both understand that,” Chris Campbell said.
“We’ve helped people from those who’ve lived in tents and RVs, to very nice houses. Everybody has something in their life that just prevents them from having a tree, and we’re not going to tell people no.”

QUINN MOWERY and his son, Harley, at right, pose for a photo with Santa Chris last year. Contributed photo

Last year, he delivered decorations and a small tree to Patricia Post, Quinn Mowery, and their little boy, Harley Mowery, who live in a travel trailer.
“It made us feel like Christmas was about giving and helping others instead of getting what you want,” Post said.
But this year was different because her fiancé, Quinn Mowery, passed away in May.
“I wasn’t looking forward to any of the holidays because I was going to have to do them on my own,” she said.
“But when Santa Chris showed up, he got me into the holiday spirit. (It) made me feel like it was a time for celebration and fun.”
Pay it Forward Christmas also ignited inspiration for Shellie Cutrell, who now helps the family organize orders. She hadn’t decorated for the holidays in 12 years, but this year she put up a tree.
Their service to the community started four years ago when Campbell saw a social-media post about a boy who liked to go to a neighbor’s house because the home was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and his was not, Campbell explained.
That post reminded him of what it was like to be a child with parents who couldn’t afford holiday decorations. His own family was poor; when he was eight years old, his dad cut a tree from the backyard and the family decorated it with things from the house, he said.
“Me and the wife got talking, and we’ve both had times in our lives where, as parents, we couldn’t afford things (for Christmas),” he said. “So it just kinda hit us that that’s something we need to fix.”
They spend the year collecting Christmas decorations from various sales and from donations through the Facebook page. After Thanksgiving, community members began posting their needs, and sometimes the Campbells don’t have to do anything because someone else on the page answers the call.
The Campbells also started receiving donations of $5 permits to cut trees from Willamette National Forest.
“Last year when I went up, I took the granddaughter with me,” Campbell said. “She played in the snow, we had a fire. So usually when we go up, we make a day of it, we make it a family trip.”
The Campbells will travel to the mountains a couple of times every year, where they’ll hunt for nice trees and deliver them to families in need.
In their first year, the Campbells helped about 50 families. For the next two, they helped more than 70. This time they had to close off requests at 80 because they were running out of items.
If more donations come in from the community, then he can fill more requests.

Families request all the usual stuff, from Christmas trees to stockings, as well as lights, tree stands, ornaments, tree skirts and tree toppers.
“Each box is custom made to what the person requests,” he said.
The Campbell family and volunteers stay busy boxing up requests and setting up delivery times. Campbell said he wouldn’t be able to do it without their help. Then he dons his Santa suit and spends each weekend making deliveries.
Campbell said the suit is one of the best investments he’s made because it makes everyone happy.
In return for all the tree-cutting, organizing and driving, and for the cheer the family brings, all that the Campbells ask for in return is a photo of the finished decorations on the Facebook page.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Campbell said. “There’s times that we get frustrated and overwhelmed, but then I go out as Santa and I get people waving at me and they get so excited.”
He thinks of the times when passersby slow down in their cars to wave at Santa, and of the photos with kids during delivery, and of the little girl who jumped up and down on her couch because he was there.
“That makes it worth it right there,” he said, “no matter what the cost.”