Liberty County organization steps up to help homeless and transitional families for Christmas

Kevin Ward (left), Terry Keel and Melinda Wheeler Dhillon display the 12 Amazon Fire tablets and a $2,350 cashier's check for the Children's Center in Galveston. Ward and Dhillon, representing Santa's Not So Little Helpers, met Keel, the director of the Children's Center, when they delivered the items to Keel in Houston on Dec. 21.

By Vanesa Brashier,

A week after organizing Christmas presents for 250 children in need, Santa’s Not So Little Helpers stepped in to help the Children’s Center in Galveston, delivering 12 Amazon Fire tablets and two cashier’s checks totaling $3,450 in time for Christmas.

The funds came through donations to two Go Fund Me accounts set up by Santa’s Not So Little Helpers’ Kevin Ward of Kingwood and Buba Crye of Tarkington. The men are lifelong friends who started the charitable organization in response to the need in the Tarkington and Cleveland communities.

With the help of donors, Ward and Crye have provided Christmas presents to children in need for the last nine years, sometimes surprising families outside of Cleveland Walmart or delivering presents to families in the community who needed a little help. This year, the pair used Amazon to organize wish lists to purchase presents for the 250 children.

When they learned that children being assisted by the Children’s Center might not have presents this year after another organization’s donations fell through, Ward said they couldn’t say no even though holiday fatigue had set in after organizing, delivering and shipping presents to the 250 children they adopted for Christmas.

 “Every child deserves to get up on Christmas morning and feel a little magic about the holiday,” Ward said. “If we are able to help in just a small way, then we are happy.”

Ward said he learned about the plight of the Children’s Center through friends after a story aired on Houston TV stations about the children’s presents being stolen or not delivered by an organization that had promised to help.

“It appeared the children were not going to get any Christmas presents without some help,” he said.

After contacting the Children’s Center to request permission to seek donations on the organization’s behalf, Santa’s Not So Little Helpers raised enough money to purchase 12 tablets and still provide $3,450 in cash donations.

On Dec. 21, Ward and Melinda Wheeler Dhillon delivered the money and tablets to Terry Keel, chief executive officer for the Children’s Center.  In visiting with Keel, they learned that organizations and individuals in the Greater Houston Area also responded to the news story and had donated enough presents for all the children.

This frees the donation from Santa’s Not So Little Helpers to go toward the purchase of other tablets or hygiene products the children need when they enter one of the Children’s Center’s two programs – Transitional Living or Homeless Families.

In Transitional Living, children may have aged out of Children’s Protective Services’ care. Keel said he has four teens in that program who are in college and others who are finishing high school.

“In our family crisis center, we have 40 children among 12 parents. These families live in eight apartments we lease in a complex where they are mainstreamed with other families,” Keel said. “We have families who come from CPS and we are giving them a last chance to make things work so they don’t lose their children.”

As for the organization that was originally expected to provide Christmas presents to the children, Children’s Center is cutting its ties, according to Chief Operating Officer Hilda Tobias.

“We don’t want any problems or drama. We don’t have time for that. All we are going to do is focus on the children,” she said.

Tobias credited the University of Houston, Blue Santa in Galveston and others for arranging presents for the children on a short notice.

“The community came together. Our teenagers were able to get gift cards and the kids received presents. Every family received a turkey dinner,” she said.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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