Florence Kinney, Webster’s “Mrs. Claus,” approaches amazing gift-giving goal

24 Sep

It’s only the last week in September, but Florence Kinney is already thinking about Christmas.

Actually, she’s been thinking about it and working on it for the last nine months, purchasing and preparing the thousands of gifts she’ll be delivering to children this holiday season.

Florence Kinney — or as some know her, “Mrs. Claus” — is the driving force behind a grassroots ministry which she calls “Santa’s Workshop,” dedicated to bringing presents to children who might not get many gifts, or anything, for Christmas.

The effort began very simply in December 1989, when Florence read a story in the Democrat and Chronicle about two brothers who were going to be spending their Christmas at Rochester General Hospital. After reading the article, she asked her husband Charles if they could go to the store and buy a toy truck for each little boy. He agreed; just one toy.

But after dropping the trucks off at the hospital, something kept nagging at Florence. So she asked Charles, again, if they could go out and get just a few more toys. He agreed, again, and they headed out to shop.

They came back with 400 gifts, which they delivered to 400 more children at the hospital.

That was going to be the end of it, Florence said. But word spread and they started getting calls from other hospitals, and a reporter called to do a story. When they told him they had no plans to continue, he encouraged them to pray about it.

“It was a very emotional moment for us,” Florence remembered. She and Charles stood in a corner of their kitchen and prayed. “Next thing we knew, this heat just rose right up from our feet, right through our body. We both started crying our eyes out, and I looked at (Charles) and said, ‘This is a calling.’”

Santa’s Workshop was born, and has grown every year, even after Charles passed in 2003. The agencies it serves have expanded well beyond RGH to include the Ronald McDonald House, Williamson Community Center, Cure Cancer Association, House of Mercy and a half dozen others, and the number of children and adults who receive gifts every year numbers in the thousands.

Last year, Santa’s Workshop delivered 4,889 gifts, bringing the total number of gifts since the first year to 97,506. This season, which marks the 33rd year, Florence only needs another 2,500 gifts to reach an incredible goal: 100,000 gifts delivered.

What’s especially amazing about what Florence does is that she receives very few donations. She basically goes out and purchases the thousands of toys and clothing items herself, with her own money.

Thanks to raging inflation and supply chain issues, purchasing enough gifts this year has been especially challenging. Money doesn’t go anywhere near as far these days, and it’s been difficult buying games in bulk quantities. But she’s persevered, and several rooms in her Webster home are already piled high with games, stuffed animals, dolls, books and toys, ready for the workshop to “open” in November, when her team of dedicated volunteers will start sorting, packing and delivering the gifts.

But Florence is still looking for bargains and buying gifts, because she’s bound and determined to reach her goal. “If we can make that 100,000, I will feel very good about it,” she said.

Last year when, Florence told me she was so close to her goal, I asked her if she’d be retiring once she reached it. She answered, “The only way I could do it is if God tells me that. He called me to it, he’ll call me away from it. I know that in my heart. It will be his decision to make.”

Turns out, she got that message. A couple of times. She told me,

A few weeks ago I was praying about it. I was led to go get one of my devotionals. When I picked it up and opened the page, you won’t believe what it said. The title was “Retirement?” It was all about how you never retire from the Lord’s work.

Before that hapened I was eating breakfast, looking out the window, and thinking about the last year. All of a sudden I heard “I have not called you from it. I called you to it.”

Sounds like Santa’s Workshop will be hanging around a little while longer.

(Click here to read more about Florence in the blog I wrote about her last year.)

* * *

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(posted 9/24/2022)

8 Responses to “Florence Kinney, Webster’s “Mrs. Claus,” approaches amazing gift-giving goal”

  1. Linda J Meyers September 24, 2022 at 6:44 pm #

    Is there a way we can donate toys to her?!

    • websterontheweb September 25, 2022 at 9:31 am #

      Thanks, Linda. I’ll get back intouch with you soon once I find out what Florence could use!

      • Linda J Meyers September 25, 2022 at 9:36 am #

        Great, thanks! I have some toys in my basement that I would be happy to donate!

      • websterontheweb September 25, 2022 at 9:37 am #

        Methinks she only gifts new toys, however 🙂

  2. Linda J Meyers September 25, 2022 at 9:38 am #

    They are new!!

  3. Jaime September 25, 2022 at 9:34 pm #

    Love this! I would be happy to donate a new toy(s) as well!

    • websterontheweb September 29, 2022 at 2:28 am #

      Thanks Jaime! Drop me a message next week And we can arrange something!

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