Winter Texans contribute so much to the economy of the Rio Grande Valley. And that's great! We need those extra dollars. But money can be such a fleeting thing. Winter Texans are giving much more than money. They are giving a commodity that cannot be put in the calculator.
The big thing that the Winter Texan Community contributes to us is their love of sharing and giving - a love that continues and grows as time goes on. They are giving of their time, their talent and their love for their fellow man. It is very, very impressive how much they contribute in so many ways.
Many of those Winter Texans were themselves born in difficult times when money was tight. Jobs were so few and far between that the government created jobs so that many people could feed their families. And now those same people who worked hard, and know what a hard life is all about, are ready and eager to help those in our communities who are having a difficult time.
Sometimes they help in the schools by tutoring students who need that extra time and attention to learn to read or to understand math. Almost every RV/Mobile Home Park in the Valley has not one, but several projects that contribute to our Valley. Men’s shirts are cut up and sewn into girls’ dresses and contributed to those in need. Quilt groups in the parks make lap throws and comforters that are donated to the nursing homes. It must be comforting to envelope yourself in a hand made love offering from someone that you will probably never know.
Park Place Estates in Harlingen has a stuffed animal project. They give stuffed animals to the Sheriff’s Department so that when, and if a family is separated for whatever reason, the child, who now has no one to cling to, can at least find some comfort in his cuddly gift.
Fun N Sun in San Benito participates in the Toys for Tots drive. They also contributed over $3,000 in merchandise to the San Benito Food Pantry. Particularly impressive is their Angel Tree. Those who wish to participate take an angel from the tree. Each angel has a child' s name for whom a toy will be purchased. These toys are then given to children at Sunny Glenn Children's Home and children who are at Maggie's House.
Sometimes a project started by local citizens will catch on and spread to the Parks and grow into an annual project so large it is almost beyond comprehension.
One such project, started in 1982, had its beginnings through efforts of the Southwest Regional Dry Cleaners Association. These local men decided to start a drive to collect Winter coats for under privileged kids whose families could not afford warm clothing for their children. Without a coat, these children often missed school, staying home under the covers as they tried to stay warm.
Just one year after the drive to collect coats started, Mary Grace Lansburg of Channel 5 contacted one of the men of the Dry Cleaners Association. She wanted to help promote and grow their project. Tim Smith, from Channel 5, also became involved and so Tim's Coats was born. Tim became the catalyst that helped spread the project throughout the Valley.
Soon many RV/Mobile Home Parks all over the entire Valley began to contribute to the project. It is estimated that perhaps half a million coats have been donated since 1982...this is probably a very modest estimation. The coats are collected, cleaned by different dry cleaners in the association, and then distributed through the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities to keep our children warm.
One park in particular - Bentsen Grove Resort in Mission - wanted to be a part of the giving and sharing. They now have been contributing coats for thirty years. Sixteen years ago, this park decided to keep records. To date they have collected and contributed 16,800 coats. A bumper year for them was in 2011, when their records show a total of 1,462 coats were donated.
Thank you to al l of our Winter Texans. You are making a difference!