By IAN TULLY
---- — MORRISONVILLE — Dave Justus is not Santa Claus.
He does not have a workshop at the North Pole with tireless workers who make gifts for good children, a flying sleigh or any reindeer.
Despite these disadvantages, he and his wife, Marion, have done their best to make sure every child in the North Country gets presents and a good meal during the holiday season.
“We love them all. If there is one thing we got in this house, we got a lot of love, to make sure kids don’t go hungry or without a Christmas.”
For many years, Mr. Justus has been giving out gifts, food and furniture at Christmastime to needy parents and children in the Clinton, Essex and Franklin county area who could not afford them otherwise.
He said that for children to receive these gifts, their parents just have to call him, set up an appointment and come to his house the first Monday after Thanksgiving. That is when the gift giving begins.
Justus said families do not have to give anything in return, and anyone who needs help need only ask for it.
“If we got it, they got it.”
The Justuses live at 316 Soper St. in Morrisonville. Reach them at 643-0855.
HAD LOUSY CHILDHOOD
Last year, he gave toys to 696 children in the North Country, and he said this year there are even more people in need.
He attributes his passion for holiday giving to what he described as a “lousy childhood.”
There were many Christmases when he did not get any presents, and he learned how painful it was to go to school in the same old clothes while everyone else wore something new. Mr. Justus’s parents divorced when he was young, and he lived in six to seven different homes throughout his childhood. He said his family never seemed to have enough.
“It was a mess.”
At an early age he made up his mind that when he grew up, he would be sure to make Christmas special for children in similar circumstances.
GRATEFUL FOR HELP
At one time the Justuses had been affiliated with Toys for Kids, a charity program that gives donated gifts to children in need, but for the past five years they have been working on their own.
The program they run is named Justus for Children, and while they accept donations that go to downtrodden families, he said much of the program’s funding comes out of their own pockets.
“We have gotten rid of my wife’s car so we could have that payment money to use here, with our toys and stuff,” he said.
Both he and Mrs. Justus are retired and living on Social Security benefits. However, that does not stop the couple from going to Wal-Mart and Big Lots on last-minute toy-buying trips when they run out of presents to give.
They are very thankful to Jack Fisher, the owner of Plattsburgh Distributing; and the Franklin County corrections officers of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, who help to fund the toy giveaway each year.
Mr. Justus said he will never stop his Christmas giving, and that goodwill is a crucial part of the holiday season that too many people forget about.
“I can get up Christmas morning and say we did the best we could do.”