FORT HOOD, Texas – Elves have transformed the former Fort Hood Tax Center into Santa’s Workshop, where military families are greeted with snacks, hot beverages and a giving spirit.
For 15 years, Santa’s Workshop has provided Christmas gifts to Fort Hood families, and soldiers. This year soldiers of 1st “Dragon” Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division shopped for their little ones during a visit Dec. 5.
Santa’s Workshop is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization providing toys to Fort Hood’s active-duty Families in need of a little extra help during the holidays. Toys, games and funds provided by civilian and military donors make the program possible.
“We actually received a phone call yesterday from a soldier who came through earlier in the day,” said Lisa West, president of Santa’s Workshop. “He was so incredibly grateful that we were here, and it just brought tears to my eyes. That’s the reason why I’m involved in Santa’s Workshop.”
Families apply to receive gifts from Santa’s Workshop through their unit command financial specialist. Once approved, each unit is given a shopping time when families select two toys, stocking stuffers, and a book for each child and a board game for the Family.
“Hopefully people who are having financial difficulties during the holidays (can) get toys here for their children (and) focus their financial resources on other issues that are going on in their lives,” said West, a New York native.
Pfc. Chris Williams, a cannon crew member assigned to Battery B of the Dragon Battalion picked out footballs for his son.
Williams said he is grateful for the program because money can be tight this time of year.
Santa’s Workshop stocks everything from games and family movies to bikes and fishing poles. The shelves are periodically replenished, ensuring every shopper has a wide range of quality toys to choose from.
“I felt like I was in a toy store,” said Williams, a Shelby, N.C., native.
Smiling elves guided shoppers like Williams through many rows of toys categorized by age group and gender, while offering parents gift suggestions based on their children’s interests.
Pfc. Byron Hooker, also a cannon crew member assigned to the Dragon Battalion., said the elves were helpful in the process and showed him what was available as he shopped for his six-month old son.
“It’s a lot greater than what people really let on,” said Hooker, a Somerset, Ky. native. “It’s really nice here.”
Hooker said he would recommend Santa’s Workshop to other Soldiers who may be hesitant to apply next year.
Of the 2,400 applications Santa’s Workshop received in October, they were able to assist 1,970 families across the installation.
This program helps soldiers put gifts under the tree during adverse circumstances. West said Santa’s Workshop even provided Christmas gifts to a family whose home had been destroyed by a fire.
“We’re very appreciative this year of all of the help that the military and the civilian communities have given us,” West said. “We really see (how) the community cares this year, and it really helps our soldiers and family members.”
For more information about Santa’s Workshop, visit: www.swsforthood.com.