When Pam de Santiago branched out to begin the Next Steps organization in The Colony she decided that she was going to take one of her favorite things with her.
A Christmas party for children.
Next Steps, a nonprofit organization that carries on Metro Relief’s work of helping families in financial crisis, will host a Christmas party Dec. 13 at First Baptist Church in The Colony.
This will be the first time the party is put on by Next Steps, which de Santiago began this fall to allow Metro Relief to focus on its core mission of helping the homeless. Metro Relief had hosted the event for the previous seven years.
“We had done an outreach at Budget Suites right before Thanksgiving, and then Christmas came along and people said, ‘What are we doing for Christmas?’” de Santiago said. “We had a food pantry on site, so I said, ‘Why can’t we do what we do for the food pantry but with toys?’ So we took the food off the shelf and replaced them with toys. And it just grew and grew.”
The toy collection will be a central piece to the party. de Santiago said leading up to the event Next Steps will be collecting toys from the community at different locations. Then, while children are enjoying crafts, snacks and pictures with Santa Claus at the party, their parents will go through the donations in a separate room with help from a personal shopper.
“The fun part is them knowing they got to pick out the gift themselves,” de Santiago said.
The deadline for families to register for a gift is Nov. 30.
Residents are encouraged to donate gifts for the party. de Santiago said gifts will be separated out by age and gender, and the program is available for children ages newborn to 18 years. “Usually the area where we’re really lacking is teens,” de Santiago said. “A lot of people will step up and give gift cards.”
Drop-off locations can be found at nextstepstc.org/christmas. There will also be a donation drop-off at the Parade of Lights.
In addition to toys de Santiago is also asking residents to donate wrapping paper or to volunteer for the event.
de Santiago said there are approximately 400 children registered already, and with the party accepting online registration for the first time this year she expects that number to reach close to 500 children.
She said the party is open to children in The Colony and the surrounding area.
“This is personal for me,” de Santiago said. “This is the most fun thing we do all year.”