AUSTIN (KXAN) — Christmas is coming and students at a local “dropout and recovery” high school are participating in a Secret Santa campaign.

“Everybody just really wants people to have a warm and happy holiday, a bountiful holiday,” Nina Winstead said.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

Winstead is the development director at Texans Can-Austin, which is a part of Texans Can Academies. She has seen increased support, especially this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The community responded with much more solidarity and gratitude.”

A response the high school’s principal noticed.

“We have students who are really struggling, students that come from difficult backgrounds, who are maybe broken families, and these kinds of donations make sure that our students don’t miss out on everything that a normal child should have. Children should have these supplies. These basic and life needs should be part of every student’s life,” Principal William Arevalo said.

The high school asked its students to place two items on an Amazon wish list for their Secret Santa donors to fulfill. Donations included winter clothing, food, gift cards, toys, and more. All items were priced at $30 or below to not break the bank for those who want to give. They’ve received donations from dozens of people, including organizations like H-E-B, that provided food donations and gift cards. The local law firm Hancock McGill & Bleau LLLP bought many items on the wish list, which allowed the high school to give to more students.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

One item stood out the most, which was tacked on to many of the student’s lists: diapers. Many of the students have kids.

“It was so thoughtful,” Winstead said. “Over the holidays, the cost of diapers can really be a huge strain. Diapers, wipes, formula — we try to alleviate that as much as possible so that they can focus on their education and then focus on things that would help them move forward.”

By donating a gift off of the Amazon wish list, a donor can make a student’s wishes come true, as well as affect Austin in the long run, Arevalo said.

“We are empowering our community and helping our students be future members of our community. So we’re not supporting people… sometimes you look at organizations and you’re like, ‘Is that an organization you should support? I will not see the fruit of my labor.’ But this organization, our success has an immediate impact in our community as our students graduate thinkers and they’re able to get jobs and support our economy.”

Contactless Christmas

Texans Can-Austin is placing an emphasis on student and donor safety so all Secret Santa orders are contactless.

(Courtesy: Texans Can - Austin)

"In the past, gift wrapping has been a fun, community thing. We invite the community and the staff to join together and wrap and chat and obviously, we can’t really do that right now," Winstead said.

Instead, volunteers separated wrapping paper, tape and ribbon into kits along with the gift items. Then, staff and volunteers wrapped the gifts Thursday morning outside the high school at socially distanced tables — all to minimize the contact between people using the same items. The gifts will be delivered to students before winter break.

Texans Can-Austin also accepts monetary donations. You can donate a chosen amount on their online portal. The high school is also taking item donations outside of the wish list. If you'd like to schedule a delivery or pick up, the school asks you to contact Nina Winstead via email. You can visit Texans Can Academies' website for more information about their schools and initiatives.