Local charities providing help for the holidays

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By ANTHONY FLORES

The spirit of the holidays, at its core, is the spirit of giving. More than just gifts, it’s the time to lend a hand and show compassion to those in need. Now more than ever, with a pandemic affecting families in ways they never anticipated, the need for communities to come together is crucial.

Several organizations in Liberty Hill are working to spread the holiday spirit to those in need. With the ever-present COVID-19, Operation Liberty Hill is adjusting its annual Christmas dinner box.

“Because of COVID, there’s some unavailability of some of those items because we need 200 of each item to go in the box,” said Executive Director Susan Baker. “We’re requesting people donate $25 gift cards from HEB or Walmart or money to purchase the cards. We’re doing pretty good on that so far, but if people want a way to donate, that’s something they can do.”

Angel Tree, the nonprofit dedicated to making sure struggling families have gifts under the tree, is making COVID-related changes just like Operation Liberty Hill. The deadline to adopt an Angel is Dec. 1.

“It was made pretty clear to parents asking for help. This year, because COVID has hit everybody, we won’t have big-ticket items,” said local attorney and Angel Tree organizer Jamie Etzkorn. “So, no big electronics and no bikes. Instead of people shopping for individual clothing items this year, we took that off the form because people would be handling the clothes. We’re asking that people adopting the angels spend $75 total. That’s a $30 clothing gift card from Kohls, TJ Max, Ross, Target, or Walmart. The remaining $45 is for toys.”

With the new gift budget, Etzkorn is noticing a shift in focus to more enriching gift requests but does miss the ability to provide popular requests.

Etzkorn also noted that the amount of families almost matches 2019 numbers. In 2019, they had 117 families, and for 2020 they are at 116.

“The people asking for help have been very receptive to that and are asking for a lot of dolls, Barbies, small Legos, trucks, craft, and balls,” she said. “I’ve seen stuff that promotes kids’ minds and gets them thinking instead of in front of a screen. I think it’s been a good thing to take the electronics off. I hate that we won’t do bikes, but that would be the whole budget.”

Partnering with Operation Liberty Hill and Angel Tree, the Liberty Hill Police Department has placed donation barrels around town for their Operation Blue Santa program.

Locations of the barrels include Classic Bank, Dahlia Café, Dairy Queen, Dollar General, Jardin Corona, Liberty Hill City Hall, Liberty Hill Eye Associates, Liberty Hill High School, Margarita’s Restaurant, Mojo’s, Prosperity Bank, Subway, Tractor Supply, Verabank, Higginbotham Brothers, Texas Honey Hole, Auto Zone, Benny Boyd, Blue Door Gifts, and Agape BBQ.

For Thanksgiving, the police department is also working with Operation Liberty Hill to collect non-perishable foods with their Operation Stuff a Cruiser program. Each location will have an officer present to accept donations.

Locations and times for donations are Thursday, Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wetzel Park; Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Higginbotham Brothers Hardware store; and Thursday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Dollar General parking lot.

Like the police department, the Liberty Hill Public Library will be accepting food donations that will go to Operation Liberty Hill’s food pantry.

“It’s our Food for Fines program. People bring donations of food, like peanut butter, cereal, canned goods, rice, beans, or boxed children’s snacks. Then we will remove fines and fees off of their accounts,” said Librarian Angela Palmer. “For every item, we take off $1. We will waive fees for all lost or damaged books, too.”

Williamson County’s Brown Santa program helps those in need across the county, providing gifts for kids up to age 15. The program takes care of any residents living outside the city limits who aren’t served by a similar program. To participate, people can apply on the county’s website under the Brown Santa section. All applications are online only due to COVID. Dec. 4, is the deadline for applications.

Community Blessing Outreach will provide Thanksgiving meals to local families in need in the surrounding area. The meal includes turkey, sides, rolls, and pies. Families looking to get a meal must sign up by Friday, Nov. 20. Pick up will be on Nov. 25, between 3 – 7 p.m. The pickup location will be the Post Tavern in Cedar Park at 601 Whitestone Blvd.

“We want to make sure that we can get to as many people as possible and help however we can,” said Etzkorn. “Maybe not in the same way as we did in the past, maybe the gifts aren’t so big, but to me, anything can help right now.”

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