Brown Santa donations are down, but organizers are finding ways to make it work

Travis County

TRAVIS COUNTY (KXAN) — This weekend, Travis County Sheriff’s Office’s Brown Santa program will deliver thousands of toys and food to people in need, but this comes at a time when the need is greater than ever — and donations are down.

Each year, Brown Santa helps more than 2,000 Travis County families in need during the holidays, but COVID-19 has made it more challenging.

“Last year, toy donations were down but money was up,” said Louis Moncivais, Brown Santa organizer. “This year both toy donations and money donations are down.”

While donations are down, Moncivais is making it work. Each year after all the toys and food are delivered, they leave the donations buckets up a few days to collect extra items for the following year. Stockpiling can help, especially when donations are down.

“Everyone is running across the same issues as far as donations,” said Moncivais. “Everyone is down this year.”

Even their food donations are down, and some items are harder to find. Moncivais says the food boxes might have a few different items this year, but all their clients are getting the essentials.

Finding volunteers was an issue last year, but this year more than 2,500 people stepped up to help. The McCallum wrestling team showed up on Wednesday to fill food boxes.

After filling the boxes with toys and food, volunteers will deliver to different locations around Austin. Families sent in applications in October to see if they qualified.

Brown Santa also included magnets with a hotline number for mental health assistance. Moncivais says the holidays can be hard on some families, so they wanted to make sure to include the number.

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