How to be Santa’s helper and grant Christmas wishes

CASA Angel Tree

Conrad J. Arriola, executive director of CASA for the Highland Lakes Area, decorates one of the Angel Trees the organization is setting up across the community. On each card ornament are gift requests from a child in CASA, which you can fulfill to brighten that child's Christmas. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The holidays can be especially difficult for children under the care of a Court Appointed Special Advocate, which is why CASA’s Angel Tree program is vital.

Through Angel Trees, people can grant Christmas wishes to children who have been taken from their homes by the state due to abuse and/or neglect. Many will spend the holidays in foster care or with other relatives.

Angel Trees, which can be found at several area businesses, including pharmacies and banks, are decorated with cards identifying a child by age, gender, clothing sizes, and book requests. Givers pick a card and fulfill requests by buying and returning unwrapped items to the tree’s location. Organizers make sure Christmas wishes have been granted and the gifts make it to the right recipients.

“Last year, we revamped our Angel Tree program and made it more specialized to each child,” said CASA program director Brittany Grubbs.

Givers can also host a family, providing either presents, a holiday meal, or other needs. Currently, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area serves 224 children in Burnet, Blanco, Llano, Lampasas, and San Saba counties.

Angel Tree contributions must be received by December 13. Search the organization’s Facebook page @CASAHighlandLakes or visit highlandlakescasa.com for more information.

Here are some of the other organizations in the Highland Lakes dedicated to making Christmas merry in Burnet and Llano counties.

CHRISTMAS OUTREACH FILL THE BOATS

Drop donations for children ages 0-15 in the Granite Shoals police and fire department boats at 410 N. Phillips Ranch Road through December 22. Surveillance cameras will be pointed at the boats to deter any Grinches. Those giving large donations, such as bicycles, should contact the police department at 830-598-4818 beforehand. 

The biggest need is presents for pre-teens and teens, said Frances Lachance, co-chairwoman of Christmas Outreach.

“They’re the hardest to shop for,” she said.

A top item for these age groups is headphones. As for younger children, toys are always welcome, including dolls and doll accessories.

Last year, the organization gave away 12 bicycles thanks to donations.

“The kids who get bikes, you should see their eyes light up,” Lachance said with a smile.

Donations of helmets and other safety gear are also needed.

Families can register to receive gifts by completing applications at Highland Lakes Elementary School, 8200 RR 1431 West in Granite Shoals; Granite Shoals City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road; the Department of Health and Human Services Office, 1406 Resource Parkway in Marble Falls; and The Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls.

Distribution is 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, December 14, at Grace United Methodist Church, 4007 Valley View Lane in Granite Shoals.

HIGHLAND LAKES CHRISTMAS IS FOR KIDS

This organization helps families living in Smithwick, Spicewood, Cottonwood Shores, Marble Falls, and Highland Haven along with Burnet County residents in Horseshoe Bay South and Kingsland.

Those wanting to donate money can send it to Highland Lakes Christmas is for Kids, P.O. Box 1750, Marble Falls, TX 78654. Board members will send back a tax-deductible receipt. The money will be used to buy gifts.

Applications to receive donations from the organization can be picked up at The Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls, or the Department of Health and Human Services Office, 1406 Resource Parkway in Marble Falls.

Volunteers are needed at 6 p.m. Friday, December 13, at Marble Falls Middle School, 1511 Pony Circle Drive, to unload and sort presents.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, December 14, volunteers will sort and label bags. Recipients can pick up the gifts later that day.

BROWN SANTA

Brown Santa, a Llano County Sheriff’s Office program, ensures children in the county have something to open on Christmas. The program benefits ages 0-17.

Donations needed include dolls, remote-controlled cars, arts and crafts supplies, and coloring books. The organization doesn’t need stuffed animals, said Lt. Brad Evans, who has been in charge of the program since it began in 2012. He also asked that toys be unopened and unwrapped.

“We have to know that it’s a new toy,” he said.

Families can apply for assistance at the sheriff’s office, 2001-A Texas 16 North in Llano, and the Justice of the Peace offices at 8347 RR 1431 in Kingsland and 2001-B Texas 16 North in Llano.

Deadline to apply is Monday, December 2. Deliveries are made house to house on Wednesday, December 18.

“That’s the most fun part of it, is to take them to the houses,” Evans said. “It’s a way for us to interact with the families in a positive way. We get to see the looks on their faces. We enjoy it.”

Call the Llano County Sheriff’s Office at 325-247-5767 for more information or to drop off donations.

ELVES FOR THE ELDERLY

Elves for the Elderly helps senior citizens living alone on fixed incomes who often lack money for toiletries and simple pleasures. Items needed for holiday gifts include puzzle books, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, tissues, and adult bibs.

“We are looking for stuff they don’t have the money to buy,” organizer Bessie Jackson said.

Donations should be brought to St. Frederick Baptist Church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls, no later than December 9.

The group also needs medium-size bags with Christmas decorations and volunteers to help stuff them.

Gift bags will be assembled from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, December 9; Wednesday, December 11; and Friday, December 13. Deliveries are December 16-20.

“Somebody has to be on the ground level in the trenches,” Jackson said, “caring for God’s people.”

Last year, the Elves assembled 500 bags for distribution to nursing and assisted-living homes in Marble Falls, Kingsland, Bertram, Liberty Hill, and Fredericksburg.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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