Winter Texans came to the Rescue
By Barb Zanetti
Photos by Dennis Zanetti
Almost 1,000 presents were assembled. Santa was scheduled to appear with his buddy, The Grinch. The photographer was ready. Six hundred children and several dogs were registered online to receive gifts at The Landmark on Tower’s Second Annual Christmas party.
The only thing missing was more good help. Restaurant owner Roel Landa said he didn’t even know how much he needed Santa’s Winter Texan elves.
The day of the party over a dozen residents of Alamo Palms RV Resort and Alamo Rec-Veh Park showed up and they were ready to work.
“I told them [the Winter Texans] after the event was over last night,” he said, “’I don’t know how I would have done it without you!’”
During the afternoon of Wed., Dec. 21, the over-55 group helped decorate the restaurant’s enormous courtyard.
“We all pitched in, grabbed the decorations that The Landmark provided and put them up where they looked best,” elf Carol Norman said. “All of us did our part.”
Mary Lou Kennedy agreed that it was a Winter Texan group effort.
“Dennis had good ideas with the large paper balls, and we followed his lead,” she said. “Kathy and Peggy took on the lollipops. Mark, Joe, and Bobby mounted the candy canes on the perimeter. Mike worked on the tree decorations. Carol helped at the fence. We all dug in and we did it!”
But there was still much work to do.
Over $4,000 had been spent on the decorations and toys from The Landmark on Tower’s Community Fund*, plus more toys and donations came from area organizations and businesses.
Employees had handled the initial sorting of toys, but that work wasn’t complete.
In the restaurant some Winter Texans pitched in to finish sorting toys by age group. Meanwhile, several others began hauling toys to fill the enormous, gift-wrapped boxes on the stage to prepare for the nighttime party.
But their work wasn’t done yet. The children hadn’t arrived.
At 6 p.m. when the restaurant’s courtyard doors opened, the ambitious group was still there, helping The Landmark’s employees at the chilly outdoor event. Residents of both parks worked side by side to make the night a success.
“I worked with Evelyn Kane, who’s very organized,” Betty Steinbach said. “The two of us worked well together -- she crossed off the names and I handed out hundreds of tickets. At the end of the night, I couldn’t imagine that many kids going through! It was amazing!”
Two other Winter Texan elves helped guide the long line of children to Santa and The Grinch, where free photos were taken.
One little girl cried and wouldn’t go to get her photo with Santa while the Grinch was there, so Mary Lou (dressed as The Grinch’s dog Max) said she had to chase the green creature away and make him hide until the child’s photo was taken.
The free-photos-with-Santa-and-The-Grinch mini stage was a hit.
“I loved just seeing the kids all dressed up for Santa,” Carol Norman (herself dressed as an elf) said. “They wanted to be on his lap. They were so excited! That was fun!”
Other Winter Texans were on stage distributing toys to children -- from infants through 15-year-olds. With their presents in hand, the children exited the stage down a large yellow slide.
At the bottom of the slide, two Winter Texan volunteers helped ensure the children were safe.
“It was a lot of fun!” Paul Craig said. “Heck, the little kids had a great time! They thanked us!”
He said that some of them didn’t act like they had ever been down a slide. While some were leery, most went down enthusiastically. A few reluctant ones sat on their mom’s laps to make the short trip to the bottom.
It was the children who made it special for the volunteers, as well as for Landa.
He said the reaction on the kids’ faces when they saw Santa Claus was the highlight for him.
“I saw kids hugging him and crying when they saw the Grinch,” he said. “It’s something they’ll remember and so will their parents. That made it worthwhile!”
The Landmark on Tower owner was extremely pleased with the evening’s success.
“I told the Winter Texan volunteers after the event was over last night that everything that I had pictured in my head, everything that we wanted to do, … we did!” he said. “I didn’t realize the amount of effort we would have needed for it to happen the way it did … without them!”
With a goal to ensure that Alamo children and their parents continue to have good Christmas memories, he said he’s counting on this year’s Winter Texan volunteers being there for next year’s party.
*The Landmark on Tower’s 2022 Community Fund earned over $15,000 from vendors, who paid $20 to rent a table in the restaurant’s courtyard. The money was earmarked to benefit the citizens of Alamo, especially its children.