Pancho Claus brings holiday cheer to Houston’s needy kids

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HOUSTON (KIAH) — Have you heard about Pancho Claus?

This Houston legend that arrives around Christmas time surprised local kids with presents at the Aldine Ranch library earlier this week.

Arriving in a 1973 Cadillac, wearing his signature shades, Pancho Claus is a different kind of Santa.

Richard Reyes has been Pancho Claus for 40 years, bringing toys to children who are most in need. For many of the children he sees, this will be their only gift of the holidays.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Pancho and his volunteer elves still managed to bring gifts to children all around Houston.

“It is a beautiful thing to see the smiles on children’s faces,” Reyes said. “It is a more beautiful thing to see the relief in the mothers and grandmothers, who are raising grandkids by themselves.”

For Carla Martinez, a mother of three, getting these gifts for her children makes this Christmas a little less stressful.

“It is beautiful because not all children have this moment with a parent,” she said. “As a parent, I feel very lucky that especially in these moments they are thinking about the children.”

This year, the pandemic and a decline in donations threatened to put a damper on his ability to reach as many children. After hearing about Pancho Claus’ plight, Mayor Sylvester Turner engaged community partners to raise funds and make a donation to keep the holidays merry and bright throughout the community.

The mayor joined representatives from Disaster Recovery Services, DRC, to present a $10,000 check to Pancho Claus during a city council meeting earlier this month. 

“We’ve seen him on television, in parades, but most importantly – in our neighborhoods. For four decades, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that kids in under-resourced and underserved neighborhoods have something special under the tree come Christmas morning,” said Turner. “So much of his work relies on the gifts that come from other Houstonians. Without the generosity of the people of this wonderful city, Pancho Claus’ efforts would not be nearly as effective.”

Because after all, there is a Pancho Claus in all of us.

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