FORT HOOD, Texas — While Christmas Day may still be months away, Sept. 1 is the first day for military families in need here to fill out their online applications with Santa’s Workshop.
Fort Hood Santa’s Workshop, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization on post, has been in operation since 1998. They support active duty military members and their families stationed at Fort Hood. Last year, the organization helped more than 3,000 children.
Each eligible child receives two toys, a stocking stuffer, a book and the family receives a board game, as well, according to Chella Stokoe, president of the Fort Hood Santa’s Workshop. She’s been working with the organization for five years and said it has been an amazing experience.
“I wish I could describe the feeling of seeing just the relief on the faces of the parents,” she said during the taping of today’s episode of Fort Hood’s Great Big Podcast, produced by the U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood Public Affairs Office. “They weren’t sure they could provide anything, or have anything under the tree for their kids. (Having them) … able to come in and seeing what they are able to take home, it’s just an indescribable feeling.
“Especially now with the prices of groceries and gas and all of that. It just warms our hearts (knowing) that we can help,” she added.
Eligible children supported by the program must be aged six months to 12 years old (as of Dec. 25).
Those wishing to apply for Santa’s Workshop gifts can find the application and more information on their website, Caution-www.forthoodsantasworkshop.com < Caution-http://www.forthoodsantasworkshop.com/ > . The online applications will stay open until Oct. 15.
“We’re actually completely online now,” Maria Pena, the application chairperson for Santa’s Workshop, said on today’s podcast. “We started this last year, so it was a little bit of a work in progress. But we found from families that it’s more helpful for families to go online to do this process without having to go their chain of command and have several people see their application.”
She said those online applications go straight to her for processing.
“It’s pretty easy,” she said. “You can access it from your phone, from an iPad, and it doesn’t just have to be the service member. The spouse can also do that. Not all the time is the service member here. They’re deployed or at NTC (U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California), or something like that. We’ve taken that piece out, and the spouses can now fill it out.”
As a non-profit charitable organization, Santa’s Workshop relies heavily on donations, which come from a wide variety of sources.
“Most of what we have are monetary donations, or we have ruck marches where units donate toys to us, and we have other organizations that donate money, or toys, or both,” Stokoe explained. She said Santa’s Workshop is always looking for volunteer assistance.
Those wishing to volunteer with Santa’s Workshop, or donate, contact them through their website, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Santa’s Workshop is located next to the Clear Creek Commissary here.