With Christmas just three months away, Santa’s Workshop Fort Hood is now accepting applications, while raising funds and accepting toy donations.
To kick off the season, the on-post nonprofit held the Silent Night Out fundraiser at the Vineyard at Florence on Sept. 13.
“Our first goal is to raise awareness and participation,” said Lisa Howard, event chairperson. “Santa’s Workshop doesn’t happen without the community working together.”
More than $150,000 worth of toys were distributed to more than 1,400 families last year, said Lisa West, board president. Thanks to both corporate and private donations, this is all done on a $60,000 budget, she added.
“We depend on toy drives and very smart shopping,” West said.
Fort Hood families can apply for help from Santa’s Workshop through their unit’s financial specialist before Oct. 16.
“We expect more families this year with sequestration and budget cuts, families are being hit hard,” West said. “Many spouses are still having a hard time finding work.”
The application process ensures their limited resources are used to help those truly in need, and also allows the soldier’s command to provide financial counseling.
“It’s not just a hand out, it’s a hand up,” West said.
For participating families, each child ages 6 months to 12 years old receives two new toys, a book and a stocking stuffer. The family also gets a board game to play together.
Everything is selected by the parents through “shopping days” before Christmas, complete with shopping carts and a register.
“We give parents the opportunity to pick out something for their kids, so we have to have a variety of toys,” said Sandy Landes, board member.
There is something special about helping parents shop, and seeing them find that perfect gift, she said.
“When they get excited and they start tearing up, we start tearing up,” Landes said.
Santa’s Workshop Fort Hood began within the 13th Sustainment Command and grew to support the entire installation in 1998. A volunteer board works year-round raising funds, tracking inventory and collecting toys to prepare for Christmas.
“It’s wonderful to see all the support the community gives us. The more support we have, the more we can give to soldiers and families,” said Lori Brooks, application chair.