The/Studio: Introduce yourself. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are!
Jim: I am the co-founder and Executive Director of Lone Star Santas Charities, Inc. (DBA – Lone Star Santas). In 2007, a couple of us got together and felt that a Texas Santa organization would be a good idea. We had been part of a national Santa organization that had some serious political problems and it wasn’t for us. We felt we had enough Santas in and around Texas that we could go it alone. We both had ‘acquired’ Excel listing of Texas area Santas. At our first meeting we had 5 show up, the next one we had 15 show up and in 2008 we formed Lone Star Santas with about 35 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, Elves, and even a Reindeer Herder.
The/Studio: What a wonderful idea! What does your organization do?
Jim: We started out as a fraternal organization just trying to help each other become better Santas. Then, in 2011, while watching the devastation in Joplin, MO; Lone Star Santas began calling each other. Something needed to be done for the children who had lost everything! Toy drives were started. Thus, ‘Convoy of Toys’ emerged, resulting in 3,500+ new toys being delivered directly by Santas to Joplin kids. On the way home, we knew this was our ‘Mission’. This was followed by going to wildfire and other tornado-devastated areas throughout Texas. In 2013, Lone Star Santas Charities, Inc. was born and we became a 501(c)(3), non-profit, all-volunteer charity. We are now large enough with over 250 Santas… plus Mrs. Clauses and Elves … and we still have a Reindeer Herder. We require all of our members to have an Annual Background Check. Most of our members are Insured. And, many have Hospice training. We also sponsor a Santa School alternating each year between the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the Houston area.
The/Studio: What have you learned since starting your organization?
Jim: We have learned that as we continue to grow, we had to organize a Board of Directors; keep an accurate set of books to keep track of dues and charitable donations; member’s names, addresses, background-checks and insurance records; etc. We do hire a CPA/Tax Attorney (who gives us reduced rates) to help assure us that we are following all the rules.
The/Studio: What about your organization are you most proud of?
Jim: Developing our ‘Convoy of Toys’ mission. We have written a ‘How-To’ book that we provide to other Santa organizations throughout the USA. We provide seminars to other Santa organizations at national Santa gatherings. We are now recognized by the Red Cross and FEMA. And, we are recognized by businesses throughout Texas as a worthwhile charity with an excellent mission … which has helped as they have provided some sizable donations that have helped support our mission. Our stated Mission is to ‘Provide Love, Hope, Joy and Toys all wrapped up in a Big Santa HUG, directly to children and families affected by natural disasters’.
The/Studio: What are some of the greatest challenges you face with your organization?
Jim: Obviously, obtaining enough donations to allow us to improve our ‘Convoy of Toys’ mission. We are currently refurbishing a gently used 7’x16’ Cargo Trailer we purchased. This will be used to collect and transport Toys to the disaster areas we visit. The trailer will be ‘wrapped’ to indicate our Mission. This is costly. We are in need of a set of tires for instance. Once this trailer is complete, we would like to acquire an additional trailer and get it refurbished to support our mission. We would like to have one located in the Houston area and the other located in the DFW area to aid in the logistics of collecting toys … but also to help as we head to the location and venue we will be using to distribute the toys.
The/Studio: Where do you see your organization or business in 10 years?
Jim: I hope and pray that our ‘Convoy of Toys’ mission is active throughout the USA … and even in other countries. When there is a disaster, the local Santa organization is on the ‘call-list’ of the Red Cross and FEMA. We are the only organization that focuses ONLY on the children. Who … better than Santa Claus … should be the ones to bring some Love, Hope, and Joy to the children affected by a disaster?
The/Studio: I can only imagine how happy those kids are to see Santa. What type of legacy do you want to leave?
Jim: Personally, I want to be known as the Santa who led and developed our organization and mission. I’m 75½ now. I want Lone Star Santas to live on into perpetuity. I want to also be known as being a good Santa Claus locally to the kids in the communities I serve.
The/Studio: What is the story behind the custom product that you produced with The/Studio? How are you going to use this custom product?
Jim: Our members are very proud of the work we do. We want to ‘advertise’ our ‘brand’ as we meet together or when we are out in the public. And, we are getting ready for a gigantic, world-wide, Santa Convention called ‘Discover Santa 2016’ to be held in Branson, MO … July 6 – 10, 2016. We Texan’s, of course, want to have the ‘largest’ presence at the convention. Therefore, anything we can use to help this along is good. Thus, the pins that y’all have created for us.
The/Studio: Wow! A Santa Convention? That’s amazing! Do you have any promotions you would like to offer our community?
Jim: Not at this time. Our Santas are currently booking gigs for this year’s Christmas season. Santas in Texas may be found at www.LoneStarSantas.Org . And, this is where folks can donate to our ‘Convoy of Toys’ mission.
The/Studio: Do you have any upcoming events that our community members can attend?
Jim: Many of our Santas will be found in Malls, on floats in Parades, at Bass-Pro shops throughout Texas, doing home and corporate visits, hospital visits, and more.
The/Studio: Is there anything our community members can do to help your charity?
Jim: We are always looking for corporate sponsors and donations. As mentioned, we are looking for another 7’ x 16’ cargo trailer (toy-carrier style).
Thank you Santa Jim for sharing your story with us and bringing love, hope, and joy to our community!