SAO seeks donations for annual Christmas Caravan
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Spanish American Organization (SAO) secretary Carmen Barbosa easily could be considered one of Santa’s elves this time of year: busy preparing the group’s annual effort to help six Latino families celebrate a brighter Christmas. But that job is much bigger this year, simply because the families in need are bigger.
“We’ve been gathering for about 15 years, said Ms. Barbosa. “We gather to honor families in need. We supply them with food, clothing, and toys for the children.”
SAO typically spends more than $1,000 out of the organization’s treasury each holiday season. But the families that will be helped this year have 20 children among them, making the tradition a bit more difficult. The group obtains the names of needy families from Queen of Apostles Elementary School.
“We’ve got some very big families. We’ve got two families with six children and two adults—a grandparent and a parent,” Ms. Barbosa explained. “The other ones are three and four children.”
HoneyBaked Ham, based in Maumee, donates six hams each holiday season. The Andersons, also in Maumee, provides a gift card each year, which Ms. Barbosa uses to purchase potatoes, fresh fruit, and other staples for a typical holiday meal. The SAO secretary also does all the Christmas shopping for the children.
The effort culminates each year in a mid-December party at her son’s house in the Old South End, where club members gather to sort and arrange care packages—some the size of a box that would fit an artificial Christmas tree. The group shares covered dishes and celebrates the holidays together with the meal. The Christmas Caravan then heads their separate ways to hand-deliver the donated goods to Latino families throughout Toledo.
“We have a lot of generous people. We ask them to bring food, food in lots of six,” Ms. Barbosa said. “All of the food is donated. Everybody just brings lots of food, lots of food.”
All of the families being helped this year are single-parent households. However, some of the families may not qualify for other holiday-related assistance, such as Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army. So SAO tries to help fill in those gaps to ensure Latino families in need get some holiday help. But the sheer number of children is where the greater expense will be this year for the group.
“It’s a struggle because we know we’re going to spend a minimum of $50 per child,” she said. “We’re buying them a toy of their choice. We try to give them what they want, because that may be the only time of year that they get the gift they want.”
SAO will accept cash donations to help offset the cost of the annual tradition. Checks can be made out to the Spanish-American Organization or SAO, and may be mailed to SAO, c/o Carmen Barbosa, 1103 Rochelle Rd., Toledo, Ohio 43615.
“Members and friends are so generous—because they also are so thankful,” Ms. Barbosa said. “They are happy to receive it. We are just so happy that we do this. Makes me feel good, because I know it is for other people.”