What is a Christmas Promise?
Let me introduce you to an organization I have been affiliated with for over ten years.
Christmas Promise is an organization that sends “Santa Claus” to approximately 250 families. Each referral agency, church organizations, and social workers forward “letters to Santa” from disadvantaged children. Christmas Promise fulfills the wishes of these children by sending Santa to the home of the children on Christmas Eve.
Here are two of my stories on how this organization in Sacramento has touched so many lives.
For at least seven of the ten years I have volunteered to play Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Christmas promise delivers toys, clothes and a blessing to the poorest of the poor in Sacramento. This year will be one of the poorest on record. Here is how it works.
Christmas Promise gathers “intelligence” on those that are in dire straights. On Christmas Eve the entire crew of volunteers gather at the distribution point…aka The North Pole. At least 200 folks and more are involved that evening. To distribute the toys the “sleighs” of trucks, UPS and Fed Ex vans converge on the scene. A Santa is paired up with a Driver and a Santa Helper. So the team of three gets driving instructions, maps and bags of toys, clothing for each family. A few pies and some sodas for extra measure. The bags of toys are put in giant trash bags. A family can receive anywhere from five to ten of these bags depending on the size. The bags are packed with everything imaginable including bicycles, skateboards, clothing… you name it, is in the bags.
Hundreds of us go out into the community to deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve. For some it’s a family affair, for others like me, I am known as a Wildcard Santa. I get paired up with a driver and a helper when I arrive. Allow me to tell you of two such “deliveries” one year.
My first year I arrived and couldn’t believe the amount of toys, and organization that went into this worthy cause. I was paired up with a father and his 18 year old son. They had informed me that they had been doing this for seventeen years. The son said he only new Christmas Eve’s to be delivering toys. The son, whom I will call “Jeff” was being shipped out to Iraq the next day and this would be his last Christmas Eve doing this for sometime. His dad drove our truck and we loaded up. We had a pick-up with an eight foot bed and we barely could hold all the toys for the four families assigned to us.
Our first stop was in Del Paso Heights. Generally speaking it is a poor area. I always took the poorest assignments in town. I know the neighborhoods and felt these were the places that needed our help the most.
When we got to the location that we had, we couldn’t find the house. We searched all over the place and couldn’t find it. We had to call the North Pole to check on the address. They had access to the police department who helped out by calling the folks as a courtesy to see if they were home. We received word back that yes indeed they were home. We were just about to give up when I spotted a row of horse stables tucked back into a lot. Surely they didn’t live in a horse stable?
A Horse Stable?
We walked over and sure enough someone had converted six horse stables into rental units. I knocked on the door and proclaimed “Merry Christmas!” Our script is to say that “I am Santa Claus and I am from the North Pole!”
It was dark out by now and a woman answered the door. Inside was a dimly lit “living unit” maybe 200 square feet. She had a three and a half year old daughter with her. “I am Santa Clause here to delivery some toys to you and your daughter, may I come in?” No one says no to Santa on Christmas Eve! We are supposed to look around to see if they have a tree or any presents to make sure our intel was correct. This family had zip, zero, nada. I found out that her husband was in jail and they had nothing to eat and couldn’t afford to buy one solitary present. She was so poor that they only had one light bulb in the house. The little one knew to go get a cloth and unscrew it from the kitchen and put it in the bathroom to put some light on us in the living area. Meanwhile Jeff my helper was bringing bags of toys to put outside the door.
I reached into my bag and pulled out a gift for the little one. She squealed with delight! Mom received gifts too. Every time I gave the girl a gift, she would run around the little house jumping up and down with delight and hollering as high as her little voice would go! I went through at least six bags with those two. I sat on the floor and we opened up every gift and had Christmas right then and there. No way was that little girl waiting until tomorrow! Mom received clothes, dishes, toiletries and food. The girl received games, clothes, and little girl stuff. I spent at least forty-five minutes opening gifts with them. I was told from the folks at Christmas Promise that being a Santa would change your perspective on things and that is was hard job. I was beginning to see that. Thank goodness I was in full costume and it was dark, because I was having a hard time keeping it together. Finally we opened up the last gift and it was time for me to move on.
What is all the commotion about?
By now several folks had gathered outside to see what all the commotion was about. They give us an extra bag of stuff to carry just for that reason. So I passed out small gifts to the small children and lots of candy to the crowd that had gathered outside. News had traveled fast that Santa had arrived. One man came up to me and asked if would I come over to his place and say hi to his kids. He was three doors down from the woman’s unit. Seems his kids didn’t believe in Santa anymore. When I walked in, I saw three kids ages 4-8 sitting on a small sofa. Obviously these folks were just as poor when I didn’t see any tree or gifts. I went up to each and said “Merry Christmas” and handed each a small gift from my special bag. Gave them a big pie too. Their faces lit up in dis-belief when they saw me. The littlest one started jumping up and down on the sofa, “Look its Santa! See I told you he was real” he said to his older siblings. Of course one wanted to see my reindeer and I had to ad lib. I remember saying something like I had upgraded to a truck to be able to be legal in the city. I had to say something quick and it was the only thing I could come up with!
I finally made it back to the truck with my helper Jeff and with his Dad’s help we were off to the next house. Little did I know this next house would be one of the most heart-wrenching deliveries I would ever make in the ten years I have done this. I don’t talk about it much in person, because I seldom get through the story before breaking down. So here goes.
Our next location took us to the Rosemont area in Sacramento. On my instructions, the household consisted of three girls ages 7-12 a teenager of 18 years with an infant and Mom who was about 40. They gave us the names in advance so when I went to the house I asked for them by name and that Santa was here to deliver toys to them. Santa must know everyone you know! I was ushered in to a house that I could tell poverty dwelled. No tree and not one present wrapped anyplace. I sat in a chair and started calling out names for each girl. All the presents are carefully wrapped with each persons name on it. I am sitting in front of the three girls, Mom is standing to my left and the teenager is taking care of an infant someplace in the kitchen. The girls wore clothes with holes in them, their shirts and faces where dirty and they hadn’t combed their hair in days. So this family had no Christmas planned and presents were for other families not theirs.
As I pulled out each present and called out he girls name, each jumped for joy. They opened each gift and showed it to Mom. After the first few gifts, Mom started to cry when she saw how happy her girls were. I gave presents to everyone and I spent about and hour with them. The bags kept coming in and I kept calling out each girls name. About halfway through Mom was just a basket case. She sobbed every time I pulled out a present for one of her girls. They quickly opened it up and screamed as only girls can do and announced what they have received. They all showed each gift to Mom. By now she is sobbing out of control. And by now I can hardly function myself in just calling out the names! Jeff my helper later told me that he also lost it when he heard all the screams of delight when he kept bringing the bags up to the door.
By now the house was full of wrapping paper, toys, clothing and food. It was time to leave and I was so choked up I could hardly talk. Mom was still sobbing and walked me to the door and outside. She thanked me and then unexpectedly threw herself at me and hugged me and started sobbing uncontrollably on my right shoulder. And she cried hard! Harder than I have ever seen anyone cry. She cried hard for a long time and I finally lost it myself. No one plans for something like this, you don’t learn it in school, and you don’t see something like this every day. I put my Santa arms around her and let her cry. The only thing I could think to say was “God loves you!” My brain was having a meltdown and I could barely function. She finally stopped crying and let me go. I am sure Christmas Promise was just what she needed. And I am sure there was a reason that I was chosen to visit that house. When you see a family with absolutely nothing and and no hope during the Christmas Season, it is truly a blessing to bring the Christmas Spirit to a family. It changes you as a person and gives you a glimpse into what Christmas is and should be. We are fortunate to have an organization like Christmas Promise in Sacramento.
As are the rules, we are not allowed to make contact with the families afterwards. I have driven by that house several times and I always wanted to stop in and see how they were doing and introduce myself to them. For it was they who made my Christmas, not the other way around. To be just a small cog in the wheel that brought tremendous joy to a few families one might was priceless!
Jeff was back in the truck with his Dad. The three of us just sat there in the cab in silence. None of us moved or could say anything. His Dad was a big burly guy, Jeff was over six foot tall and obviously a rugged guy if he was being shipped to Iraq the next day. We all sat there in silence for a few minutes. The family had gotten to all three of us. Dad, I am sure was thinking about to losing his son to a war. Jeff, had only knew Christmas Promise growing up and hearing the squeals of delight, he was having a hard time keeping it together. And me, who just had some unknown mother sob uncontrollably on my shoulder. I doubt any of us could see straight.
Somehow we finished and made it back to the North Pole. One of the “veteran” helpers took a look at me and said something like, “I see Santa has shed a few tears tonight. Being a Santa is a special thing and it’s hard.” I gathered I wasn’t the only Santa to come back with gut-wrenching stories on their faces.
These are two of the visits that stand out. There are others that someday I will write down. I know it has been a tough year for most. But if you have a chance this year to do something for a total stranger or someone you know, and bring some Christmas Cheer into both of your lives, make the effort. Don’t let another year pass by.
If you are interested in helping out this incredible organization in Sacramento, please contact me at 916-600-4516 or email at Paul@SmithHeggumReport.com
I will put you in touch with the North Pole!
You can help in may ways. If you have a large truck, or want to be a Santa Helper or a Santa, there is a place for you.
Have a Merry Christmas!
Former Republican Candidate for the 5th Congressional District (Sacramento)
Delegate of the California Republican Party
Short URL: http://www.smithheggumreport.com/?p=166