A group of Santas, Mrs. Clauses and hard-working elves delivered Christmas in July last weekend to the families affected by the Memorial Day weekend floods.
Lone Star Santas, a nonprofit organization specializing in spreading “love, hope and joy,” provided disaster relief in the form of toys at the Centro Hispano de San Marcos Aug. 15. Several children accompanied by their own personal Santa, Mrs. Claus or elf toured a room filled with toys until they found the right one to take back home—or, in the case of the Ford family, back to temporary housing.
Martin Ford and his family of four were evacuated from their home on River Road and have yet to return to permanent housing. The Ford family has set up a temporary housing at a bed and breakfast they cannot afford.
“We lost everything,” Martin Ford said.
His wife, Marie Ford, said the family is taking it day by day and are continuing the search for affordable housing in the area. The Fords were previously living in low-income housing.
“Everyone is wanting two and a half or three times the amount of rent and I don’t make that,” Ford said.
Martin Ford said his family spent time at the shelter set up at the Activity Center in San Marcos after several homes were evacuated. He said volunteers were running around making sure everyone was getting the help they needed.
“After that, it’s been all on our own,” Martin Ford said, shaking his head as he shrugged his shoulders.
Marie Ford said the family has reached out to some of the organizations that have been here since the beginning of the disaster, but many of them ran out of funding.
“We know (the nonprofits) can’t stay until everyone is on their feet,” Marie Ford said. “It just takes so long because so many people were affected.”
The Fords expressed their gratitude to the Lone Star Santas and their convoy of toys. Martin Ford held a brand new Scrabble game and toy under his arm for their infant child, Leilani. Their older daughter left the Centro Hispano with a gift card and a smile on her face.
“It’s all about seeing the smile on the kids faces,” said Bruce Hickman, Santa volunteer from Lone Star Santas.
Hickman and his wife, Toni Hickman, have dedicated four years to volunteering as a Mr. and Mrs. Claus in several toy convoys across the state.
“It is really a privilege to come in and talk to kids and let them know things are okay,” said Toni Hickman, Mrs. Claus volunteer for Lone Star Santas.
Doug Portwood, director of Lone Star Santas said this is the first flood disaster relief the nonprofit has responded to. Portwood added the organization decides independently which disasters the band of Santas travel to next.
“When we see a disaster happening, we evaluate the impact its had on the community and the number of families and children that might be affected by it,” Portwood said. “We’ve gone to just about every one here in Texas.”
The Lone Star Santas held a toy convoy in Wimberley later the same day at the Wimberley Community Center.
Portwood said the organization is helping other local Santas develop a plan to respond to future disasters.
“The image of Santa Claus himself is an image that children trust,” Portwood said. “A big Santa hug goes a long way for disaster victims.”
Follow Alexa Tavarez on Twitter at @lexicanaa.