Santa Swung By A Lot Of The Barrios

Actually, make that a lot of Santas
BY: MELISSA HEISLER

In and around Cabo and San Jose, Gringos buzzed around collecting food, clothing and toys to be distributed to those in some of the poorest barrios. The Wednesday night before Christmas at Sherrie Miller’s house in Cabo there was hardly any space to walk. “Last year we had hardly anything, just some rice and beans”,  Sherrie said. “This year we received items and cash from neighbors, friends and neighbors of friends.” Her house was a flurry of activity from the 12 elves that were helping out. Margaretta Banks and others broke down 25 pound bags of rice into smaller sized bags. The rice along with different types of beans, sugar, and other foods would be put into cloth bags to be distributed to families for their Christmas day feast and hopefully beyond.

 In the living room, Sue Roots took the lead in packing gift bags for children. Separated for girls and boys, these bags had the obligatory toy but also practical gifts like hair ties, facial tissues, and toothbrushes.

A controlled chaos had taken over the house as each person described how they thought items should be packed. Christmas tunes played off the cable television and wine was flowing.. A joyful bustle took over the house. A lot of work needed to be done to be ready, but everyone was thrilled with their task and were anticipating the joy they would see on Christmas morning.  Margaretta had started this tradition with one other women a few years back, and when the Caboholics started funding the Feeding Los Cabos Christmas meals, she was discouraged. “We could not run such an extensive event,” she explained. But then Margaretta and the others decided to do what they could, and for the last four years she and Sherrie’s efforts have been very well received. “There is still a lot of need and every bit helps,” Margaretta said. “There are plenty of barrios to go around.”

This bunch is not the only ones taking it upon themselves to play Santa. Just up the road Cindy Strand gets the folks all riled up at Ventanas to donate to their own Christmas day caravan when she started helping out back in 2007. She and her husband Ross drove down a trailer in 2007. A local church gave her 12 boxes of hand-carved wooden cars to give out, and after that they were hooked. The second year Cindy coordinated seven cars full of food, blankets, hats, and small toys to distribute. The kids from Ventanas even emptied their closets of old clothes and toys to give away. “It was just so touching”, Cindy said, “seeing the mothers crying in gratitude. It feels wonderful to help out.” 

Sherrie’s group heads toward the barrios Christmas morning and stops where fate lands them, while Cindy’s team has been going to the same place for years. This year Faryn Masso Clark from the Cabo Mommies Facebook group had a more organized approach. “We talked to our nannys and housekeepers”,  Faryn said, “to find out about specific families in need due to hardship or illness.” They identified a barrio of 70 homes with 56 children which they supported this year. Because they had the names and ages of the children, everyone will be receiving a gift specifically for them. Like the others, Faryn is amazed at the generosity of those she reached out to. We only had four or five families helping in 2014”,  she said. “This year we have more than a dozen families donating or attending.”

Has this gotten you all fired up to help out next Christmas? Here are some helpful hints to start your own Santa run.

Stay simple: This is not the time for extravagant gifts. An Xbox takes electricity to play, which they may not have. Stick to the basics of food, clothing, blankets, and small practical gifts. The children in need may not even be in a position to receive one present from their parents, so a little goes a long way. 

Start collecting early: Do you go home to the States or Canada during the summer? Bring extra empty suitcases with you. Then ask your friends and neighbors up North for donations. Check out local garage sales or church bazaars. Clean out your or your neighbors’ closets for contributions. If you are coming back from Canada, West Jet allows one free humanitarian bag to come with you.

Drum up support: Many of the Santas I spoke with posted on Facebook groups to let more people know how to donate. Use your network here and at home to increase the amount of your giving power.

Be resourceful. Hit up your dentist at home who has boxes of toothbrushes just looking for a good home. Local stores and supermarkets will often help with freebees as well. 

Do the bags ahead of time: Don’t wait until the last minute. For non-food items, pack up giveaway bags early to give you time to manage the perishable items the night before. 

Be consistent: Don’t just do it once. Set an intention to make this a giving tradition. No matter how big or small your first year is, do it again and see what happens. All Santas reported lean and robust years, so you never know what you will receive. That’s OK. Just do it! There are plenty of barrios in need and they appreciate anything you can contribute. 

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Decorate and have fun: On the big day decorate your cars, wear Santa hats, and blast Christmas carols. Bring a piñata or have a Santa available to take pictures with the kids.  Don’t just share “stuff” with those in need but provide them with an experience they can cherish forever.

 Sherrie Miller cautions though, that once you do it, it is very addicting because they are so thankful and so appreciative and it really does send home the meaning of Christmas.  She says it is very hard to explain but it almost makes you feel better to give to them than it does for them to get the gifts.

If you want to give and don’t want to play Santa, know there are terrific groups like Feeding LosCabos Kids (www.feedingloscaboskids.org/) which provide food to needy kids all year round.