Every year Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) employees help thousands of low-income Texans with their legal problems. But every holiday season, TRLA employees go a little bit further with their generosity and spread the Christmas cheer by making sure that a few of our clients are able to have the type of celebration they often dream of – one where their children receive a visit from Santa that they will remember for years.
In El Paso, TRLA employees came together and asked the community to pitch in to raise funds for three low-income families. The effort, known as the Santa Claus Project, reached out to many of our allies in the El Paso area to help. In the end TRLA El Paso raised more than $1000, allowing the office to adopt a fourth family for the project. Among the families helped by TRLA’s Santa Claus was a family of 16, a family whose only income comes in the form of food stamps, a family whose sole provider has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a young couple with a newborn.
“It was an honor to help these families with more than just their legal issues,” said TRLA El Paso branch manager Alberto Mesta. “It’s one thing to help a family keep their home; it’s another to give them the joy of the holiday season.”
For several years, one lucky former client of the TRLA Austin housing team has been the recipient of a similar tradition. At the recommendation of TRLA’s housing team, every year a group of anonymous donors adopt a needy family and ensure they have a Christmas unlike any they have ever had. This year, the group adopted the Galvans*, a family of eight that was on the verge of being homeless before TRLA attorneys stopped both a foreclosure and an eviction. Similar to the El Paso operation, the donors purchased presents for the family to help with their everyday needs and provide some lighthearted fun.
TRLA’s Austin office was fortunate enough to participate in a small part of the celebration when the Galvans were invited to pick up their presents and every member of the family was allowed to have a preview of Christmas morning by opening one gift early.
Austin paralegal Virginia Holland, who facilitates the adoption of the family with the anonymous donors, remarked, “It is a wonderful tradition that we have friends who are willing to give to families that we’ve helped during the year. It is great thing to be able to connect needy families with people willing to give so generously.”
Though TRLA was able to help only a few families fill the space beneath their Christmas trees, our staff takes solace is knowing that this year, with the help of our supporters, we have helped more than 22,000 low-income families fight foreclosure, get fair treatment from an abusive employer, avoid bankruptcy, and stand up for their rights. The fight for access to justice for low-income Texans continues into 2011 with a renewed sense of purpose and the smiles of the families we have helped as motivation.
*Names changed to protect privacy.