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Christmas presence in Bandera

By Becky Kivlovitz Texas Music Magazine Special to

(Editor's note: According to volunteer Helen Hults, once again, "South Texas and friends" came through for families in Bandera County. "I have been participating in this event for over 10 years and this year, the crowd was smaller than usual but we raised more money, food and toys than I have seen in the past years. It was awesome," Hults wrote. "We had guests from San Antonio, Helotes, Houston, El Paso, Laredo, Mexico, Canada, Germany and more! This event just keeps gettin' bigger and better.")

The annual Gifts of Love Christmas Charity Ball on Wednesday, Dec. 19, succeeded in bringing the Christmas spirit to Bandera County for the 26th consecutive year.
The event, held at the infamous Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Saloon, featured music provided by Dusty Britches and the Rhythm Ranch Hands. Arkey Blue donates his venue to this 500-person event annually free of charge. Other artists volunteering their talents over the years include the Tomen Brothers, Brian Black and Bandera Music Hall of Fame legend Larry Nolan.
The Charity Ball, complete with Christmas drinks, Texas music and family-friendly fun, raises about $1,000 each year in addition to truckloads of food and toys for less-fortunate families in Bandera County. All that makes providing for the needy possible.
"Every family gets a Christmas meal," explained volunteer Helen Hults, "from appetizers to desserts - carved turkeys, honey hams, pies, the works! And every child receives a gift."
Pat D'Spain, the event's founder, said, "Local lovers of country western music and honky-tonkin' are more than generous to the less-fortunate."
Hults added, "I'm amazed at the big-hearted people who come down Arkey's old worn-out stairs and hand me a $20 or $50 bill and say, 'Use it for the kids.' It's people like these and people like Arkey who remind me why I'm proud to live in Bandera."
To ensure each Bandera family's satisfaction, D'Spain takes matters into her own hands. "I always visit everyone personally," she said, "to determine the needs of the families and the desires of the children." D'Spain and her volunteers then deliver the gifts and meals each Christmas Eve.
What inspired D'Spain, over a quarter of a century ago, to invest so deeply in bringing the Christmas spirit to Bandera County? "Her motivation," explained Hults, "comes from watching her own loved ones trying to make ends meet during the holidays. And, most of all, it comes from her enormous love of family and her community - her sense of remembering that the gift is not just one you open. It's the gift is love."