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aLand Diane carrying 2 balls USE PRINTBy Barb Zanetti
Photos by Dennis Zanetti

For a second year Winter Texans from Alamo Palms RV Resort and Alamo Rec-Veh Park helped Roy Landa, owner of The Landmark on Tower, decorate his half-a- football-sized courtyard, as well as distribute toys to hundreds of children Thursday, December 21.

What emerged was a community event that did much more than add a brightly lit and festive holiday atmosphere meant to put smiles on children’s faces.

According to The Landmark owner, it wasn’t the children who benefited most from the hours invested by Winter Texans. He felt he was the one who enjoyed it most of all, and perhaps the Winter Texans themselves did, too.

“A lot of you all were strangers to each other, but you all have that sense of community,” he said. “It’s the way I grew up, too. I see that in the Winter Texans … where you work in such a close-knit community that when you see projects – especially for holiday events – it’s a sense of family, of community, even if you don’t know each other.”

Carol Norman from Alamo Rec-Veh Park echoed his sentiment.

“What I liked best about working there was the people,” she said. “Working with friends and meeting new Winter Texans was great!”

aLand Roy with Santa PRINTShe added that it was wonderful knowing that the kids were going to have a great time in an enchanted, lighted yard “that we helped decorate for them.”

Despite recouping from a very recent and major knee replacement surgery, Carol’s husband Mark said he was there to help his friends get everything ready for the kids. And he added that he liked being outside and seeing everyone.

It was everyone’s help and cooperation that impressed Diane Mork, an Alamo Palms RV resort resident.

“The owner had the materials out there and we could figure out what to do with them,” she said. “It was just kind of ‘do it however you’d like to.’ It was nice to have that freedom and not have anyone micromanage and say, ‘This has to go here and here.’ It was a fun and productive time – social, as well as getting something done.”

Roy explained that this was the second year that Winter Texans volunteered to decorate for the children’s party.

“Last year they did an incredible job!” he said. “This year they blew it out of the water. And they did it really fast, too.”

He did have a moment or two during the afternoon that frightened him a bit.

aLand Evelyn and Paul Good for them PRINT“I see a husband and wife with a tall ladder,” he said. “The wife is at the very top of a 10-footer hanging up one of those big ornament balloons. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, don’t fall!’”

“And I told her husband, ‘You should be the one up there.’ And he’s like, ‘I’m scared of heights.’ And I’m thinking, ‘I should be doing that.’ But they didn’t want my help. They were all doing their thing.”

While some Winter Texans were working outside, several others were inside sorting a giant pile of several hundred toys by children’s ages. From there all of the toys were carried to The Landmark’s large stage to be distributed to children that evening after they had their photo taken with Santa.

“This event makes us feel good,” Mary Lou Kennedy from Alamo Rec-Veh Park said. “It makes us feel like we’re making a difference.”

While watching their Winter Texan co-workers hand out toys to children, many like Peggy Fleming of Alamo Palms RV Resort pointed to Diane, who they said looked as if she was having a truly terrific time.

“I did! I really did,” Diane said. “Much of it was being with the children … because as a teacher, I’ve been used to being around kids a lot. I miss that contact when we’re here in Alamo and our family is not. We’re not involved with kids in the community very much. Yes, we helped with gifts for the middle school children, but we didn’t go to the school to hand them out.”

aLand Mike putting up lights PRINTDiane said that it was just wonderful that these little kids were so thrilled to be up there. She explained that she was warned before the event that due to a time factor, she couldn’t let the children reach into the giant boxes to choose their own gifts.

When the children would come up on stage, we were limited to giving them one toy, she explained.

“I could tell by looking at their face if the toy I was holding up was something they cared about at all,” Diane said. “And then I’m talking to them …. ‘Are you interested in crafts or artwork or painting or do you like dolls or …?’ Then I would show them two or three other things. And as soon as I saw the thing that was right, their eyes just opened up wide and their smile was right there. And I’m saying …. ‘This must be just what is right for you!’”

“…. It was so much fun to be around those kids!” she said.

The Landmark owner, too, was happy with the event, and he has plans to make sure it’s even bigger next year.

“At the end of the day, kids got toys; kids had a great time,” he said. “The adults were part of it as well having a good time. That makes it worth it… all the time and effort we put into it. I loved that kids were super happy!”

And he recognized that he’s grown very fond of his Christmas volunteers.

aLand Mary Lou and Diane PRINT“The last two years with Winter Texans participating in this event really has been so fulfilling for me,” Roy said. “I love watching them enjoying one another and enjoying the project they’re working on. They bring a sense of community that reminds me of my childhood… Many of them are strangers working together like [instant] friends. They remind me of The Landmark’s motto … “Where friends become family.”

The extra toys purchased from The Landmark’s Community Fund* filled the bed of an Alamo Police Department pickup truck to be distributed to needy Alamo children. The rest were donated to the Children’s Cancer Center, which makes sure that all year long children going through chemo sessions receive gifts.

*The Community Fund is money The Landmark on Tower collects from vendors renting tables to sell their crafts. Winter Texans are welcome to contact The Landmark office if they’d like to rent tables. Local Winter Texan parks may also make arrangements to use their facility for special events (especially charity ones) for free.