Santa’s elves are already preparing for the Christmas season, collecting applications for Santa’s Workshop, which will open its doors in November.
With a mission to provide Christmas to as many families as possible, Fort Hood’s Santa’s Workshop elves work throughout the year to make the two weeks of shopping days as magical as possible for the families at the Great Place.
“For some families, it’s really the difference of if their child will have Christmas or not. That’s the most important thing,” Laura Proter, applications representative of Santa’s Workshop, said. “It’s for the families, but it’s really for the children.”
Santa’s Workshop was created by 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in 1985. Understanding the need to reach more families, the Fort Hood Spouses’ Club expanded it into an installation-level organization in 1998, but the 13th ESC and the 13th Corps Support Command Association remain heavily involved. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization helps thousands of children have a memorable Christmas.
Proter said every child will receive a stocking stuffer, a book, two main toys and the family receives a board game. Toys are donated by Wal-Mart, HEB’s Camo Santa and units on Fort Hood. Kimber Tremper, publicity representative for Santa’s Workshop, said they receive support from every single unit on post, who conduct toy drive ruck marches. They also accept monetary donations, which their toy buyer uses throughout the year to purchase highly sought-after toys at discounted prices.
Tremper said all the hard work is worth it when the families begin shopping, especially new families who have never heard of Santa’s Workshop. They come in at a designated time, have an elf help them shop for their children and then check out. She said while they say “check out,” it’s really just a way for them to keep an inventory of what they have, while also keeping everything as normal as possible for the family.
“Seeing a family come in for the first time, who has no idea what we do or who we are and realize they get to pick their toys and it’s not just, this is what you get,” she said emotionally. “Every year we have people leave in tears. It’s so heartwarming.”
Santa’s Workshop distributed toys to approximately 2,000 children in 2019, which was significantly lower than normal. They anticipate a larger number of children this year, as they try to shift gears and ensure the lower-enlisted Soldiers know about the organization.
Despite COVID, Santa’s Workshop will continue, with slight adjustments to keep families healthy and safe. Masks are mandatory inside the shop and there will be elf footprints throughout the shop to remind people to socially distance. She said they’ve been working hard finding the balance keeping families safe, while also keeping the magic alive.
In previous years, Soldiers and their spouse could come in to shop for their children, but this year they are limiting it to one person per family – Soldier or spouse – with valid military identification. Children are not allowed in the shopping area, so families are asked to make arrangements to shop without them.
“We’re working overtime to ensure it goes off no matter what,” Proter said. “No matter what the world is doing, this is happening.”
Applications can be found at https://www.forthoodsantasworkshop.com and only one application is needed per family. Applications must be turned in to the unit representative, who will let them know if they are eligible or in person at Santa’s Workshop, located beside the Clear Creek Commissary in the offices to the far right of the building. Applications can be dropped off in person throughout the month of September, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
For anyone wanting to volunteer at Santa’s Workshop, send a private message to their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FortHoodSantasWorkshop. Tremper said, for the safety of the families, volunteers must work in pre-scheduled shifts to limit the number of people in the building.
Children between the ages of six months to 12 years by Dec. 25 are eligible. Application deadline is Oct. 23. Any questions can be sent to FHSWSapplications@gmail.com.