JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The "Christmas in Castroville 'Cause We Care" program, a collaboration between the James Payne family and volunteers to give back to those less fortunate in the Castroville community, brought smiles and tears to 65 families with 158 children Dec. 23.
Payne family members and volunteers, including Airmen from the Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, located 19 miles east of Castroville, off U.S. Highway 90, gave away food baskets, toys for the children and 23 bicycles to the needy families.
Started 12 years ago by retired Tech. Sgt. James Payne and his wife, Amelia, Christmas in Castroville has steadily grown since its inception.
"We saw a need for helping needy families in Castroville, especially during the holiday season," said Amelia of the family's involvement in what has become an annual holiday tradition in the community.
"We no longer have 'little ones' at home and this brings us so much joy," she added.
"It was an awesome sight," said IAAFA budget analyst Shirley Caisse, about the cause held at her parents' home in Castroville. "Although it was very cold, it brought a lot of smiles and even some tears to the men, women and children. Our joy comes from seeing how happy the families are, especially the children."
Master Sgt. Iliana Bonifacio, who works with Caisse at IAAFA, volunteered for a second straight year with her two teenage daughters, Jordan and Kristen.
"You want to do something good for others because not everyone is as fortunate," Bonifacio said. "I took my daughters last year and we had a blast. To see the reaction of the kids to the bicycles and the people receiving the food and gifts is very rewarding."