The people of Harker Heights once again helped those less fortunate this holiday season by providing food and gifts for needy families.
The Santa Pal Food Basket and Gift Delivery was held throughout Monday, Dec. 19 at Harker Heights Central Fire Station.
In total, the program helped 541 people, including 315 children and 226 adults said Harker Heights Fire Chief Jack Collier.
"This year, it looks like we will have spent about $5,000," he said. "For next year, we're really looking to get more donations. We didn't get nearly as many as we did last year; they were significantly down. In fact, we only got about 30 percent of the donations that we received last year."
Each family is given a complete turkey dinner, with frozen turkey, with all the ingredients to make dressing, cornbread mix, green beans, carrots and pumpkin pie.
"None of it is cooked, but that's one of the reasons we do this," Chief Collier said. "People can prepare the meal and have it together as a family. And the kids get presents that a lot of them otherwise wouldn't."
To qualify for this program, people have to be eligible for some kind of assistance, either food stamps or welfare card – they have to show that they are disadvantaged. They have to be legal residents of the United States and Harker Heights as well.
These donations were all made possible by the citizens of Harker Heights as well as the Lyon's Club.
They give either cash or new presents, unopened and never used.
Jennifer Hendricks and her family were one of the 148 families that were helped by the generosity of the Harker Heights people and the Lyon's Club.
"It's really great to have this kind of program here in our area," she said. "My husband left me and it's just me to try and make it out here, and after I lost my job, it was really hard. It's really nice to be able to have some kind of Christmas for my boys."
While the number of people helped increased this year, the amount of gifts and aid was down, Collier said.
Collier said that donations must start to go up next year, or else the Santa Pal program may be no more. He said the at the Lyon's Club has programs this year to help raise money, but they need more donations from people in the community.
"A key thing that I want people to understand is that this program has been called Santa Pal for years, and a lot of people think that we get funding for this from state or federal sources," he said. "But that's not the case. If we don't get funding in the future, we may not be able to have this program anymore. If people want to donate, all they have to do is come here and make a cash or check donation, or do that at City Hall. They keep a separate account for Santa Pal and Thanksgiving donations."