BESSEMER CITY, N.C. (WJZY) – A North Carolina Santa has gifted the community for decades with his naturally jolly demeanor and white beard. This Christmas, he has something unique on his wish list.
“Ninety-two thousand people waiting to get kidneys,” said Joe Greene, resident Saint Nicholas and the owner of the 161 Flea Market in Bessemer City. “And you know (a kidney is) a lot to ask people for. I said, ‘You know, even if I don’t get it for me, it’ll help somebody else.’”
Every year, kids get to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, but he’s rarely asked what he wants. Greene’s family is getting the word out this holiday season about something he — and many others — is in desperate need of.
“Santa’s Wish List: Type O Kidney,” reads a message on the back of Greene’s vehicle, as well as his wife’s. “To share your spare, call (704) 616-2659.”
Because of diabetes, Greene revealed his kidney function has dropped to 14% of normal.
“What they’re trying to do is get me a kidney before I have to go on dialysis,” Greene explained. “But if I do, I’m just like anybody else. If I have to have (dialysis), I have to have it.”
During this most wonderful time of year, the flea market owner wears many hats.
Some “play” Santa Claus, but Greene says it’s his way of life.
“Everybody has got a little bit of Santa in them,” Greene told Nexstar’s WJZY. “And we do what we love, doing stuff for other people.”
Greene has embodied the spirit of Jolly Old St. Nicholas for 22 years. And if you’re wondering, the beard is natural.
“Yeah, I have kids come up and pull it!” he said with a laugh.
Before becoming a community holiday icon, he was his family’s Santa.
“He has been Santa our whole lives,” said daughter Melissa Greene, showing a stack of old Christmas photos.
Melissa Greene and her sister Deborah Parker believe opening up about their dad’s need provides the best hope for a kidney. Neither of them are a match. But they think the gift of a kidney is worthy of a man with such a big heart.
“And it’s only in this last little bit that we’ve said, ‘OK, now it’s time to reach out to others,’ and to see if we can get him that help that he would be willing to do for anybody if he was able,” Melissa Greene said.
“And it is hard to see that he might have to go on to dialysis, and then it would reduce his life expectancy,” Parker added.
Greene’s children are also hoping their father’s message is bringing awareness to the need for living donors, in the hopes that fewer folks will have trouble finding — or asking — for kidneys.
“They call it, in the kidney donation circle, ‘The big ask, the big give,’” Melissa Greene said, becoming emotional. “So you have to ask big and give big.”