Returning Brown Santa Volunteers Find Themselves Back in Santa’s Workshop This Season
By Elexa Sherry
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Travis County residents are giving back this holiday season.
This is the 41st year the Travis County Sheriff’s Brown Santa Program is serving underprivileged families and seniors during Christmas time.
Brown Santa Chairman Louis Moncivais is in his 16th year serving with his family.
“There’s a lot of people still struggling even though they make it. We’re able to help them have a better Christmas with this program,” Moncivais said.
The program assists community members with financial hardships by donating gifts and food. Local merchants like H-E-B are able to make it all possible.
Nearly 2,000 families receive one box of toys and food per family. Included in the box are five gifts for every child 14 years of age and under in the household, along with a food box filled with basic essential and non-perishable food items and a $10 H-E-B gift card.
Moncivais said there was a greater need for donations last year due to the pandemic.
“I think more people were unemployed last year than this year. We’re not really sure what the numbers are going to be this year but last year there was a greater need and less volunteers,” Moncivais said.
The program typically gathers around 2,400 volunteers. Last year, the warehouse was down to 1,200 volunteers. Despite the lack of numbers, they still managed to get the job done.
According to Moncivais, H-E-B orders will be more scarce this year due to the supply shortages. He said the program will rely heavily on community donations.
Twenty Vandegrift High School students, including senior Ana McIntyre, volunteered at the warehouse before Thanksgiving. The students are members of Peers Assistance Leadership and Service (PALS), an organization that works with Brown Santa every Christmas season.
“In our community we definitely take presents for granted. There’s definitely a need for wrapped presents, so I think being able to do that in our free time is needed,” McIntyre said.
Another volunteer group that came to the warehouse is The Young Men’s Service League. According to Laurie, a mother who asked only to be identified by her first name, these mothers and sons volunteer for nearly 15 local philanthropies. Brown Santa is new to their list this year.
“It was just a sign-up on our website, and it worked with our schedules. We haven’t done it before, so we thought it would be a good, new experience,” Laurie said.
Moncivais has and will continue to be a familiar face at the program.
“I’ve seen girls [since they were in] Girl Scouts. Now they’re into college and some of them have even graduated and they come back, and they remember me being here every year,” Moncivais said.