Professional Santa gives in many ways

LAWRENCEVILLE - Ed Butchart, also known as Mr. Claus, is hard at work all year long, but he doesn't make toys. This Santa created a different type of workshop.

Wheelchairs, power scooters, bedside toilets, bedpans and other medical equipment fill the building occupied by Butchart's ministry, Friends of Disabled Adults and Kids in Stone Mountain. This Santa's mission is to provide free, durable medical equipment to those who need it, giving the gift of mobility and more.

Butchart started FODAC in his garage in 1986, and the organization has since grown to fill a 64,885-square-foot building. Another 3,000 square feet of space was recently added.

And although this Santa is not in the business of making toys, his ministry does employ elves of sorts, volunteers who work in the shops refurbishing medical equipment, in the ministry's thrift store sorting and selling items and in the various offices at work keeping the organization running.

"We always have people to do the work that needs to be done," Butchart said.

A sign reading "Santa's Office" hangs on the door to a small room in the FODAC building, but this isn't where Butchart, who has been the official Santa Claus of Stone Mountain for 18 years - now in his 19th - sits behind a desk. The room is filled with stuffed animals, puzzles and games, Santa figurines, dolls and more, and the music, lights and Christmas tree are enough to make one gasp in child-like wonder as the door to the room is opened. Children who visit the FODAC building for services are invited to select a toy from Butchart's collection, all of which have been donated to help this Santa's cause of spreading cheer all year long.

In addition to the work he has done through FODAC and his job as a professional Santa, Butchart has shared stories of his experiences with disabled individuals and as jolly, old St. Nick in two books. The first, Butchart's "Red Suit Diaries," was published in 2003. His second, "More Pages from the Red Suit Diaries," is available in time for this holiday season.