Santa’s Workshop runs book drive for underprivileged children

Members of Santa's workshop are partnering with Waco's Head Start program to give books and reading materials to children of low-income families in the Waco area this holiday season. Photo courtesy of Ashley Milentz

By Cole Gee | Reporter

In past years, the Santa’s Workshop team at Baylor has donated toys and other fun items so children from low-income families in Waco could receive a gift from Santa. This year, the team is looking to gift books and reading materials instead.

In partnership with Waco’s Head Start program, this will not only give children a memorable present but also give them a starting point for their education.

Molly Simpson, assistant director of service for the Bobo Spiritual Life Center, has been in partnership with Waco’s Head Start program for many years. Through this, she said she has seen how the lives of children have changed for the better.

“Head Start is an opportunity to give a good start for kids who might have other reasons — whether it is, you know, poverty or other sorts of family situations that would present some challenges to them having a good preschool experience,” Simpson said.

The book drive has been underway for three days and has already seen donations. Simpson said she encourages students and faculty to spread the word.

“We’ve had a small number of books roll in — nothing huge yet,” Simpson said. “We’re hoping that if people don’t see it and order books before Thanksgiving, we might get back on their radar when everybody’s back on campus. We’d love to buy 250 books to be able to give early-reader books to each of the kids that come to the event.”

According to the Department of Education, socioeconomically disadvantaged children, including children of color, are less likely to have books in the home. Without access to sufficient reading materials, they are unable to progress in their education outside of the classroom setting.

Liberty junior and Santa’s Workshop president Ashley Milentz said she recognized this vital need among local Waco children and decided, alongside her fellow officers, to focus on providing a gift that would help their long-term development.

“Our main shift with the officers and our advisers choosing to do a book drive this year was just having something more tangible for these kids,” Milentz said. “Yes, they may outgrow any unisex and temporary toy, but providing a book for these kids just seemed more appropriate and more valuable.”

Milentz said the Baylor community can help the organization by donating books, spreading the word about the drive and volunteering for the event itself.

“Since we are rebuilding as an organization, we would love volunteers to come out and support, whether it’s helping out at the event or before the event,” Milentz said. “People really do value this relationship that we’ve had with Head Start the past few years, and coming back to campus, we will really want to market our organization so it continues.”

The book drive will last until Nov. 27, and students and faculty are encouraged to donate using a QR code printed on posters across campus. Books will be handed out to children from 3 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center. The event will have food, music and games, along with a visit from Santa.