HOUSTON – It was a Santa’s workshop Saturday -- with a twist. Instead of jolly ol’ Saint Nick, Houston’s own Pancho Claus and his volunteers were hard at work trying to make local kids’ dreams come true, but they desperately need help from the community. Due to the pandemic, it has been tougher to get the resources needed to help with the decades long holiday tradition.
“Funding is not going so well. We know why, because it is a pandemic. We don’t have a lot of support; not one corporate sponsor this year,” explained Richard Reyes aka Pancho Claus.
Reyes said the companies who’ve helped in previous years have either filed for bankruptcy or just did not have available means to help, so he is asking the community to step in now, more than ever.
“Last year, at this point, we had like $20,000. This year, we don’t even have two (thousand). We are just calling out for volunteers to fill up the slack, they are very much needed,” he said. “So even if people just give $5 or $10 - we’ve raised like $25,000 before just in $5 and $10 donations so those help.”
Reyes said the Pancho Claus project was launched in 1981 and things really picked up around 1985 when sponsors joined. Over the last 10 years, they were giving away about 10,000 presents, then COVID hit and things took a drastic downturn.
“Last year, the need was so great because of COVID; people losing their jobs and trying to pay bills that we had to request 15,000 gifts - that’s like 50 percent more. So there’s no reason not to believe that it is not going to be bigger this year,” Reyes said.
Reyes assures that, even with funding going down, no family will be refused and every child will get a toy. However, the amount may need to be adjusted. Previously, the goal was to give every child seven toys, but if not enough money is raised, that total may be reduced to three.
Those who can donate money, can do so through Pancho Claus’ gofundme page, but there are still other ways to get involved.
“If you have a store, a beauty shop, a family party, a company party - any kind of business or gathering - you can come here to the Latino Center on Polk and Scott and pick up a box.”
Those boxes - which were being wrapped by volunteers Saturday morning, can be placed anywhere and, once filled, the organization will retrieve them and distribute.
No gift is too large or too small, and are needed for people of all ages.
“We are looking for toys from anything for a newborn to senior citizens. The toys we have the hardest time finding is for teenagers, he said.
He also thanked those who came out to help wrap the boxes, saying “We are real grateful for everyone that came here today and Feliz Navidad!”
Also, there are a few milestones worth mentioning. Pancho Claus is celebrating 40 years of putting smiles on children’s faces and Reyes is celebrating his 70th birthday!
Support the “Pancho Claus 2021 Christmas Project.”
Boxes can be picked up at:
Latino Learning Center
3522 Polk St
Houston, TX 77003
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