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Santa stand-in: Store replaces stolen decoration

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NORMAL — Two weeks after his 12-foot-tall inflatable Santa Claus was stolen, George Kinsel is running out of room for replacements.

Kinsel, a 75-year-old Normal resident, had already replaced the giant St. Nick with a smaller version when The Pantagraph published his account of discovering the original decoration was missing from his yard the morning of Dec. 5.

But some readers thought he shouldn't have to compromise.

"(Greeter) George (Miller) saw the story and told me, 'We should help this guy out,'" said Wendy Danner, store manager at Home Depot in Normal. "My associates are always looking for opportunities for us to help in the community."

On Wednesday, that meant a Home Depot crew delivered to Kinsel a new 12-foot Santa, free of charge. Six employees, including Miller and Danner, inflated and tied down the hot-air-balloon-themed, lighted decoration at 600 Hillview Drive despite windy conditions.

When asked what he would do if his old Santa were returned, Kinsel laughed and said, "I'll put it next to him."

"I love it," he said of the new decoration. "I really thank these people. They're wonderful."

The group also delivered an electronic dancing snowman to Kinsel's neighbor, Lauren Evans, whom he mentioned during his initial interview with The Pantagraph. He said last week that if the Santa were returned, he'll put it in Evans' yard for her 1-year-old son, Jeremiah Carrigan.

"It's amazing, very nice and thoughtful," she said of the snowman. "(Jeremiah) loves stuff like that."

Kinsel offered the same kind of compassion to the person or people who stole his first Santa.

"If they wanted to use it, all they had to do was ask," he said.

Danner said it was a pleasure to meet Kinsel and Evans, and she offered to send a crew back to his yard if he has any problems with the new decoration.

"This is going to be the envy of the neighborhood," she told him with a laugh.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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