The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

Pandemic no foil for community's giving


Last updated 12/1/2020 at 11:05pm

This week's cold front did not harm the new plantings at Shangri La Gardens, which is open again, on Wednesdays through Fridays. Like many other institutions affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Stark Foundation has come up with novel workarounds to let the community help those less fortunate this Christmas season.

On Tuesday, the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce became the latest local organization postponing, canceling or seriously tweaking its end-of-the-year plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while the Chamber is hoping to reschedule its Dec. 8 annual banquet early in 2021, other Orange institutions have announced their alternate plans.

The Service League of Orange will hold a Drive Thru Toy Coffee on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The Heritage House Museum will host Santa's Drive Thru Saturday, Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon, and Sunday, Dec. 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Lutcher Theater's annual PJs and Blankets drive for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree runs from Saturday, Dec. 5 through Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The Southeast Texas Hospice Toilet Paper Tea will be a Drop Off event this year on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Shangri La Gardens is unable to hold its Christmas Strolls this year because of social distancing concerns. Those events normally collect non-perishable food as entry fees, but this year the Stark Foundation is asking to community to donate the food at two drop-offs.

On Friday, Dec. 11, drop-offs will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Stark Museum and on Friday, Dec. 18, they will be accepted from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lutcher Theater's front driveway.

"All the donations are going to local food banks," explained Rick Lewandowski, director at Shangri La. "Traditionally, we take in donations at the Christmas Strolls."

The best news is that the 250-acre botanical garden has reopened to the public Wednesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"We've had to revise our open dates due to the COVID-19 situation," said Lewandowski, a nationally known horticulturist.

"The gardens are looking great. This is a beautiful time to be in the garden. The air is fresh, crisp and clean. There's lots of color and foliage in the garden now.

"This is absolutely a fantastic time to come out for a stroll around the loop with your kids and family, to get out of the house, shake those cobwebs out."

Lewandowski said holiday lighting was being added around Stark Venues downtown, the Lutcher Theater, the Stark House and the Stark Museum.

"We're all trying to be good stewards at this point," he said. "We know by this time next year, everybody will be able to come. But now, we need to be safe."

In recent years, Heritage House Museum has children coming to see Santa Claus.

Hurricane Laura damaged the city's historical museum, its 100-mph gusts breaking upstairs windows in the J.O. Sims House that allowed water to run down the walls and damage downstairs as well.

The pandemic forced cancellation of other programs, like its Evergreen Cemetery Walk and its Ghost Walk in October.

But kids will still be able to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.

Parents are asked to follow the Christmas trees as they drive their cars around the house at 905 W. Division and keep everyone in the car.

Santa will be sitting at the front of the house and masked elves will collect letters to Santa and handout goodie bags. The hours are from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 5 and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

The Toy Coffee, normally a tour of a decked-out Orange County home, collects new toys as entry fees to be distributed by the Salvation Army. This year, the Drive Thru Toy Coffee will take place at the Salvation Army.

The community is asked to wear a mask and drive through the Salvation Army lot to drop off monetary and toy donations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.

"We're adopting the Salvation Army's them this year – Rescue Christmas!" says the Service League.

The Toilet Paper Tea, an annual shelf-stocking event for the Southeast Texas Hospice, will be drop-off event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10 at the Hospice office, at 912 W. Cherry St. in Orange.

Among the items needed are plastic garbage bagts, paper towels, Ziploc bags, cleaning supplies, coffee, sugar, creamer, light bulbs, black pens, dishwasher soap, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. 


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