North Ellis County Outreach is working to ensure needy families will have a blessed Christmas holiday through its Santa Tree program.

Started in 1978 by Billy and Jimmie Wade, the program kicks off after the Thanksgiving holiday, with trees being placed at several locations to give individuals the opportunity of helping a family.

“They just started gathering up toys for the kids in the community and it has just grown ever since,” outreach director Denise Butler said.

“We have at least 300 kids and anywhere from 100 to 125 families each year,” she said.

Individuals can find a Santa Tree at Prosperity Bank, Vintage Bank, Citizens National Bank, Jefferson Bank and several churches. Each tree contains a list of items that children need as well as toy items.

Once the items are purchased, they are returned to the bank, picked up, assembled and ready for distribution by hardworking volunteers.

Butler said she’s literally amazed at what some children ask for on their Santa list.

“Some kids even ask for pillows, along with other basic items,” she said, noting the community responds well to the needs.

“We get an awesome response from the community,” she said. “Help comes from every facet of the community and they go above and beyond our needs every year. We always do our best to meet a family’s needs and to also give them something fun to look forward to. We strive to make sure that all the Santas are adopted and that way we know that the kids receive what they asked for.”

Brookshires is participating in the program by donating a roasting hen, along with a holiday food box for each family.

Brookshires will prebag groceries and place them in a box for customers to purchase as a donation while shopping for themselves. After being purchased, the food bags are placed in a box to be sorted and distributed to qualified families.

Adopted Santas should be returned to one of the locations by Monday, Dec. 17 in time for distribution at Eastridge Elementary School on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

For more information, call 972-617-7261.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@wninews.com.