'Santa' helps disabled veterans
by Rachael Griffin
Dec 25, 2012 | 3819 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack York holds a finished eagle-head walking cane that he carved for a disabled veteran at his home workshop in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Jack York holds a finished eagle-head walking cane that he carved for a disabled veteran at his home workshop in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Anniston resident Jack York, 70, whose well-trimmed white beard, long white hair and glasses bear a striking resemblance to a certain North Pole resident, not only brings Christmas cheer to children, but also to disabled veterans.

York, who retired in Sarasota, Fla., and moved to Anniston in 1997, has been carving wood as a hobby for many years. He works in a shop behind his home, creating animal figurines and Christmas decorations.

Last year, the Navy veteran started carving canes out of basswood to donate to injured service members.

York always carves an ornate bald eagle as the handle of the cane. His canes also have a longer handle, which York calls the shaft, attached to the eagle head for veterans that need more to grip or to rest their arms. He’ll also customize the cane’s staff if a veteran wants wars and awards showcased in the wood.

York said each cane can take a few weeks to carve to completion. After he finishes carving and sanding, York’s wife, Belinda, paints each cane before it is donated.

Click here for more photos of "Santa" in his workshop

York created a cane for local veteran Ben Tomlinson, who was wounded in Afghanistan and is now paralyzed from the chest down. York said he told Tomlinson even if he never uses the cane “we wanted to give it to you to say ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done.”

York said he also sells canes to veterans and retired police officers for $150 each, but those who fought in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan he refuses to charge for his services. York pays for the materials for donated canes with donated money and from the profit from canes he sells.

York said he talks to a lot of veterans at the local Veterans Affairs office, and said many of them have a great outlook on life.

“I love to see it when these young guys have such a positive outlook on life,” York said. “A lot of these guys went in as kids and when (the military) stuck them in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait … they didn’t come back as kids.”

York said he finds out about veterans in need of canes mostly through word of mouth, but would love to find a way to work with the Wounded Warrior Foundation to help more veterans.

York said he met a woman who asked him why he decided to donate canes. His response was “We have our freedoms because of the men and women who died fighting for our freedom and the freedom of the world. Freedom is not free.”

York, who is the grandfather of three boys, also delights the community by dressing up as Santa Claus for public and private events.

“Christmas is a magical time of year … It’s not about having, it’s about giving,” York said.

Requests for canes can be emailed to York at papajack@cableone.net.

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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