OOIDA member Craig Hansen, known as the “Truckin’ Santa,” and his wife, Debbie, have spent the past few days in Biloxi, MS, shopping and delivering clothes and toys to help needy families along the Gulf Coast still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
On Wednesday, Dec. 20, Hansen said he and Debbie got “pretty emotional” when they witnessed the reactions from two of the families they had shopped for receive their gifts.
“It just happened that we were delivering the gifts and two of the families showed up at the church at the same time and we were able to give them their presents. It was a great feeling,” he said. “These families weren’t expecting to have any Christmas presents at all this year, so it was worth the trip.”
He said one of the families they helped was still living in a FEMA trailer. The family of five has been trying to save money to fix up their house, which was damaged by the hurricane in 2005, so they can move back home.
“The dad of one of the families has been trying to work two jobs, fix their house and take care of his family,” Hansen said. “His car is falling apart around him and still he keeps working hard. He just won’t give up.”
Hansen said this is the attitude many of the families hit hard by the hurricane have along the Gulf Coast. “These people keep struggling – keep fighting. They just need to have someone to stand behind them every once in a while to let them know you support what they are trying to do.”
The Hansens plan to help more than 200 families who probably wouldn’t have Christmas this year without their help.
They spent nine hours on Wednesday, Dec. 20, shopping for the families and planned to spend all day on Thursday shopping, as well. Hansen said the money is dwindling fast, and he and Debbie plan to donate some of their own money to make sure all of the families on their list have a present to open on Christmas Day.
“My wife and I just look at each other and say ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other. This is our present to each other,” he said.
Hansen, who has been trucking for more than 30 years, is no stranger to the Gulf Coast. He has been taking relief supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims since 2005. This is the third year he has taken down Christmas presents to families affected by the hurricane.
“Even though donations were down this year, this trip was still worth it. When I looked at the dad of one of the families we helped and he looked at me, we both teared up. It was emotional,” he said.
– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer