The Rowlett Reindeer Organization has continued to help Garland ISD students and families for 21 years during the holiday season through donations in toys, clothing and essentials.
The organization began in 2000 when the First Christian Church Rowlett partnered with Toys for Tots to help children during the Christmas season. First Christian Church Rowlett decided to continue their efforts and expanded it wider to help more families.
“When I started here, they called me to be the outreach minister in January 2001 and told me what they wanted to do for Christmas and how to make it bigger,” Senior Minister Rev. Ann Dotson said. “Through the Reindeer Project and food pantry, we concentrate on the GISD geographic area because there's more need in just those three cities than anyone realizes.”
During its first year, FCC helped raise donations for 50 children. FCC Rowlett is partnered with other churches and businesses in the area and has expanded its distribution locations to three other churches, First United Methodist Church, First Christian of Rowlett and First Methodist in Garland.
“We just get donations, sometimes some people just donate money for us to shop. So we take what anyone wants to give us. They’ve been very helpful,” Dotson said. “It takes a village and takes a whole community. We only have about 150 members in this church. We couldn't have done this without the community help or the volunteers.”
The process begins in September. The FCC sends a form to school counselors to ask which families have asked for help or families that need assistance. The “angel” form will give permission to certain families to be contacted.
The interview process is conducted with families to determine three to four things they want for Christmas. There are volunteers who shop for the children and personal shoppers who help donate to the angels listed. This year, the process has been done through email and phone calls due to the pandemic.
“This year because the kids are out of school, we are giving them a box of food because we’re parenting with GISD and the North Texas Area Food Bank and our food pantry,” Dotson said. “We are making sure everyone gets a box of staple food that can last that week or two, at least seven meals to last while the kids are out of school and giving more food.”
In the previous years, on the distribution day, children would be able to decorate cookies, watch holiday movies and meet Santa Claus. This year, FCC has 515 families and 1,5000 children on their list and about 200 volunteers to help shop. Businesses have also contributed and shopped for listed angels through food pantry donations and toy donations.
“I think that one of the things it's done is it really unites us all. All of the churches, businesses, schools and individuals. We are all very united and focused. We all get a lot more done if no one has to take credit for it. I couldn't even begin to list the amount of community support,” Dotson said. “It really unites us knowing that we are all helping to take care of our families. It's a blessing, and every year we have more and more help and more and more participation and more children.”