Rebuilding the holidays

Samian Quazi

Nearly three months after wildfires devastated Bastrop County, more than 1,000 Bastrop children could be spending this Christmas without any new toys. The Bastrop Pink Santa Toy Drive is still in desperate need of gifts, and an acute lack of donations is quite possible. As one of the largest universities in this country, the UT student body has an opportunity to display its moral rectitude. I implore each student to purchase and donate one toy for this effort.

Since 1989, the nonprofit organization Bastrop Pink Santa has provided new Christmas gifts for needy families’ children. The program served 20 families 22 years ago. The program’s giving has swelled throughout the decades, as Bastrop Pink Santa helped 356 families for a total of 1,006 children last year.

As the devastating Labor Day fires destroyed more than 1,600 homes — making it the costliest wildfire in Texas history — Bastrop Pink Santa was not spared. The warehouse housing this year’s toy collection burned down, obliterating the organization’s entire inventory of toys collectively worth several thousand dollars. Since the fires occurred so close to the Christmas season on the calendar, the Pink Santa program has struggled to quickly collect donated toys to make up the loss.

Several Austin businesses have since mobilized to address this need by hosting drop-off boxes for brand new toys. Sullivan’s Steakhouse in downtown Austin was the first to get involved by putting up a box right inside its door, and several neighboring businesses in the Warehouse District followed suit. Although most of the donation spots are along the 5th Street and Colorado Street area, businesses as far away as Loop 360 and South Lamar will accept toys.

It’s not presents alone that matter to children. Since so much of the holiday season in American culture has emphasized specific traditions such as the wrapped gift and the hope for something desirable at a certain day of the year, children naturally have high hopes for the sense of belonging that comes with a present.

I ask you to commit purchasing and donating just one Christmas present for the toy drive, which ends on Dec. 10. The toy drive could easily meet its donation targets if just a fraction of UT’s large student population budgeted a few dollars for a new toy. Residents in the Bastrop Independent School District with children under 18 can also fill out an application for the Pink Santa Program, which are accepted at the Bastrop Police Department.

The following is a map of the toy drive’s drop-off locations:

View Bastrop Pink Santa drop-off locations in a larger map

Quazi is a nursing graduate student.