For the past 33 years, Runnels County Sheriff Bill Baird has been on a mission – to make sure all children across the county have a wonderful Christmas.

For the past 33 years, Runnels County Sheriff Bill Baird has been on a mission – to make sure all children across the county have a wonderful Christmas.

Baird has been spearheading the annual Christmas Toy Drive since he took office in 1983 and each year it has grown. And this will be his last year to head up the campaign, as he is retiring at the end of December, but that has not slowed him down.     As of Monday, the back room of the Runnels County Sheriff's Office was filling up with toys, but Baird said there is plenty of room for more. He remembered one of his inspirations for getting the Toy Drive started those many years ago, came after he saw a note on the front door of a home where he had been called to.

“It read 'Santa Claus me and my brothers and sisters hope your  reindeer don't have the flu again,'” Baird recalled and then it was on, and the tradition began.

Each year, he and his staff are happy to help families who are less fortunate, make sure their children have a Merry Christmas.

And each year, generous citizens of Runnels County pull through, donating funds and toys and other items for hundreds of children in Ballinger, Winters, Miles, Rowena and Wingate.

“In the last two or three years, we've given toys to over 400 children county wide,” Baird said.

Parents who wish to put their children on the list, simply call the RCSO and give their names and the names of their children.

It has been slow going this year, Baird said. So far, the RCSO has only received names of about 130 children and there is still room for more.

“We need people to call and get their names on the list,” Baird said. "And we need donations."  

Those who wish to donate toys, may bring them by the Sheriff''s Office or may drop them in the box at Wal-Mart.   

Baird said churches and community members have been so generous over the years and he and all of the recipients of the gifts appreciate their kindness.

Each year, between $2,000 and $3,000 is raised for the Toy Drive, which includes monetary donations and toy donations. Each child receives four or five gift items.

And each year, Baird uses whatever cash funds he has left to buy blankets and warm clothing for the kids.

Baird and his helpers will begin bagging the toys on Friday and will distribute them throughout the county on Dec. 21.

Donations of new toys, clothes and other itmes may be dropped off at the Runnels County Sheriff's Office at 612 Strong Ave. between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 325-365-2121 to submit names or for more information.