Garcia Center Celebrates Christmas by Finding Trees Forever Homes

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Large trees, colorful lights, and beautiful ornaments bring holiday cheer, brighten up cold winter days, and are a staple and symbol of the holiday season, but some residents do not have the privilege of displaying one in their home due to financial strain. Thanks to the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi affiliate, Christmas trees and beautiful, ornate decorations have found forever homes with 30 needy families.

The process of getting these artificial trees to families in need is a true community effort. First, members of the Junior League of Corpus Christi transport the trees, which are donated by H-E-B, to the Art Museum of South Texas. Then, school children come to the museum to decorate the trees in different themes to match beloved classic books like “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and “The Rainbow Fish.” The Art Museum then opens their annual Christmas Tree Forest exhibit to the public. After the community has a chance to walk through the museum’s holiday display, the trees are taken to the Garcia Center, located on Agnes St., for its annual Christmas party before they are finally picked up by families identified by the Garcia Center.

Normalinda Moreno was brought to tears as she picked up her Christmas tree on Dec. 14. Moreno has been caring for her grandson since her son was incarcerated three years ago. Her son was released from prison last month.

“I have not been able to afford a tree or presents for my grandson, so this year will be his first actual Christmas,” shared Moreno, who picked “The Rainbow Fish” tree. “This is truly awesome, and I am so happy and speechless. I’m glad my grandbaby gets to have his Christmas tree and spend Christmas with his father for the first time.”

Geneva Chapa, a volunteer at the Garcia Center, says she wouldn’t have been able to afford a Christmas tree if not for this generous program. She picked a tree decorated in the fashion of the book “The Secret Garden.”

“I think it’s awesome that they’re doing this, especially since we get to pick which Christmas tree we want,” shared Chapa, who is a mother to five children, four of whom still live at home. “There’s nothing in our house right now, and I hate to say it, but it’s depressing to walk into nothing. So, just knowing we have a tree is going to put smiles on the whole family’s face and brighten up our home.”

Chapa says she will keep the tree in her family for years to come.

“It’s nice to hear the little feet of my grandchildren running around the house during the holidays,” said Chapa. “I know they are going to love the tree.”

Reyna Ramirez, mother of four young children, chose “The Legend of the Poinsettia” Christmas tree.

“This means so much to me, because it’s a beautiful tree, and I’m happy that my children will be happy,” said Ramirez. “I would not have been able to buy a tree on my own. I am so appreciative of the program, and I thank the Garcia Center for the tree.”

Arnold Dominguez, who works as a handyman at the Garcia Center, also received a tree for his family.

“With the money I make here, plus my Social Security check, we make ends meet, but Christmas is not the same as it was before,” said Dominguez. “My son is 27 and he has Down syndrome, and my baby granddaughter – those are the two people I worry about. As long as they get a little something, I’ve done my part. The tree is a blessing for us.”