The Christmas season is a time when hearts are soft and people look for a way to give. Charities often start with a defining or life-altering event that creates empathy for a cause or a group of people in similar circumstances.
Chris Ruiz was the child of migrant workers. He spent his childhood following the harvest of crops from Arizona to the Imperial Valley in California. Ruiz went on to become a professor at Brigham Young University and a remarkable man who never forgot where he started.
Chris Ruiz and his friend and colleague at BYU, Steven A. Smith, created a Sub for Santa project in connection with Migrant Head Start to provide Christmas for migrant workers’ families in Utah County. Ruiz passed away a few years ago, but Smith and his wife, Klyss, have continued organizing donations each year, helping at least 40 families every year. The Smiths get all the contact information for migrant families in need and pass it on to people participating in the project.
Lawana and Kerry Beckstead of Lehi were approached by a friend in their LDS ward about providing Christmas for a migrant worker family five years ago. The Becksteads enlisted the help of their eight children and their grandchildren that first year and it has become a cherished family Christmas tradition ever since. They call the parents of the family they are assigned to and find out what the kids need for Christmas. “They never ask for toys or frivolous things. They need things like winter coats and car seats and boots,” says Michelle Beckstead Thomson. The Beckstead grandchildren pick out toys for the kids anyway, of course.
The best part of doing Sub for Santa is delivering the items. Lawana Beckstead remembers trekking through a muddy field to deliver Christmas presents to a family living in an old shop on a farm. “I went in thinking we were giving to them, but the mother invited all of us in and gave us handmade crocheted pillowcases and tamales,” Lawana recalled. The experience of seeing how poor these migrant worker families live is humbling. They have very little, but they are always generous and gracious.
Part of the Christmas Sub for Santa for migrant workers’ families is food. In the past, food has been provided by a non-profit organization, Nurture a Future, but they had to close earlier this year. When the Becksteads found out they would need to provide the food as well as the Christmas presents, Cindy Beckstead Greenwood put a request on Facebook to see if any friends were interested in donating non-perishable food items (the families often don’t own refrigerators). The number of people who agreed to help was overwhelming, and most of the donations came from right here in Lehi.
For more information about this Sub for Santa program, contact Steve Smith by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.