SAN ANTONIO – Santa may have his reindeer, but Elf Louise has more than 5,000 volunteers to drive the annual holiday program that provides toys and gifts to area children.
This year, the program will deliver gifts to 5,788 families in need.
“It’s particularly emotional to volunteers,” said Bill Harrison, who helps run the Elf Louise Project. “The volunteers get a huge kick out of this.”
Inside an old military warehouse at Port San Antonio, more than 100 volunteer elves were busy Thursday morning wrapping teddy bears, games, dolls and more.
“This city, in its nature, is probably the most philanthropic I’ve ever experienced,” said volunteer Brook Bedell.
Groups from USAA, CPS Energy, and Southwest Legacy High School were among those rolling out the wrapping paper and taping carefully folded corners.
Since its humble beginnings in 1969, Elf Louise has assisted more than a million children whose families struggle to put much, if anything, under the tree.
Times have changed. Harrison has been on elf duty for 29 years.
“The year that I started, we had three-by-five cards. There was nothing done by computer," he said.
Now, it’s logistical magic as toys are sorted by age, chosen for each child, wrapped, tagged and placed in just the right place for Santa’s appointed route.
And, it’s all fueled by generosity, from donations to volunteers.
“I have two kids at home, and they love opening gifts. So, why not have that experience passed around the community?” said first-time volunteer Katelyn Gonzalez.
More than 5,000 volunteers will have given their time by the date the last delivery is made.
For some, it’s about giving back. For others it’s about paying it forward.
“If it were me or when I’m older, my future kids, I would want somebody to put in time for them if I couldn’t,” said student volunteer Julissa De La Cruz.
The children soon will receive the piles of presents. But the elves will tell you, the gift is theirs.
While volunteer opportunities for group gift-wrapping and Santa teams are filled for this year, individuals and families can still volunteer to wrap.
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