Rendon fire volunteers play Santa to displaced family

An Everman family lost all its possessions, including Christmas gifts hidden under a bed, when a fire destroyed their house early Tuesday.

But then Santa showed up.

The fire was reported about 5 a.m. Tuesday in the 700 block of Cheltenham Drive in Everman in the home of Javier and Maria Rodriguez. Maria Rodriguez apparently was in the kitchen when she noticed the fire in the ceiling, firefighters said. Fire departments from four cities -- Everman, Forest Hill, Rendon and Edgecliff Village -- were called.

The couple and their children -- 13-year-old Johana, 12-year-old twins Erik and Ivan, and 9-year-old Alan -- escaped unharmed.

"The water damage ruined everything," said Autumn Prater, president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Rendon Volunteer Fire Department. "One of the firefighters told me that there were presents under a bed, but they were ruined, too."

Members of the auxiliary gathered toys, bedding and Christmas goodies and delivered them to the hotel where the American Red Cross had settled the displaced family.

"I started crying, and my mom started crying, too," Johana Rodriguez said Tuesday night.

Prater said it was a heartwarming scene. "We were in the fourth night of our annual five-day toy drive, so we had lots of gifts," she said. "Each of the kids got five or six gifts, and the family got other presents like homemade afghans and food."

Johana Rodriguez said Santa's visit brightened the family's spirits.

"My brothers were upset because we weren't going to have a Christmas," she said. "But seeing Santa left us cheerful and in a good mood."

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367