Is it Kris Kringle, Pelznickel, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus?
None of the above. It is just a kind gentleman from Georges Township in Fayette County, PA sharing goodwill and joy with local children. Who is this jolly fellow? His name is Ed Higinbotham a native of Grindstone, PA. who is a retired maintenance supervisor for the Uniontown Area School District. Ed has been making wooden toys to give out to charities since he retired in 1991. Ed began making toys to give to children who stopped by his workshop located next to his home, as well as sending them to his niece who was a school teacher in Georgia. Ed then moved on to making doll furniture for a former doll shop which sold and shipped his creations as far away as Hawaii and Japan. Ed would sketch out his own patterns and learned by doing. As many people did years ago, if something was broke you learned to fix it. This is how he learned to build and repair things. As Ed was quoting saying, “I learned by the seat of my pants”.
Ed’s wife of 65 years, Nonie, shared in a recent newspaper article that he has been making and giving away wooden toys for nearly three decades by first giving them to family, then friends and finally to a variety charities to distribute to children which includes the 100 trucks he gives away at his family reunion every other year. She finally convinced him to start initialing and dating the toys so those who receive them can remember when and where they came from. Receivers of one of Ed’s wooden toys can now find on the bottom of the toy Ed’s name and the month and year the toy was made.
The news about this kind man traveled quickly when Trooper Robert Broadwater posted a picture of the donations Ed provided to him for the “Gifts for Kids of Fayette County” that is operated by the state police. Ed donated 300 wooden toys to Trooper Broadwater to deliver to children throughout Fayette County. The news quickly spread and newspaper articles began to be written about this act of kindness. In a recent Herald Standard article Ed shared that he enjoys making children happy. These old fashion toys allow children to use their imaginations. Trooper Broadwater has been picking up toys from Ed since 2017.
Trooper Broadwater stated “I did not expect this reaction. It’s nice because there are still good people out there who want to do good things for kids.” And Ed is not alone. Trooper Broadwater brought joy to the hearts of preschool children at three different Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County locations. The program is operated by the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. who is the grantee of the Early Childhood Program. Head Start and Early Head Start programs receive grant funding through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children and Families, which is administered by the Office of Head Start.
During the week of December 17, 2018, Trooper Broadwater visited preschool children and passed out wooden toys at the Masontown and Route 857 Head Start sites, which both house two classrooms, and the Lemont Furnace site which has five classrooms. Each of classroom enrolls 20 children. While handing out the wooden toys Trooper Broadwater told the children about the toy maker. Children received a variety of wooden vehicles from dump trucks to tractors. The children’s eyes lit up when he began to pass out the toys. Later in the day you could see the children playing with their new toys using their imaginations. Trooper Broadwater said he also keeps some of the wooden toys in his patrol car in case he runs into to somebody who just needs “cheered up with a toy”, just like Kris Kringle!
What a wonderful surprise the visits were for the Head Start children. And what a wonderful story from a small town in Fayette County, PA! As was printed in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy”.