GROVELAND, Fla. — This Christmas was a tough one for many across Central Florida. But one woman took the holiday into her own hands, spreading gifts and cheer to those who need it most in southern Lake County.

What You Need To Know

  • Renee Lowe is the director of  Christmas Across South Lake

  • The group was formed to help provide gifts to residents affected financially by COVID-19

  • More than 2,000 children received toys and food because of the group

  • Community helped provide needed items

Tucked away in Groveland is the Christmas Across South Lake Santa Shack, where hard-working elves like Santa Shack Director Renee Lowe have been busy for the past seven weeks to make Christmas wishes come true.

“We knew that this year, our community was going to be hit hard for Christmas, especially with COVID and the loss of employment,” Lowe said. “We have huge Disney and Universal families that live here so we knew there was going to be a big impact in our community.”

Usually Lowe and her friends run their own charity drives around the holidays, but they knew this year would require a little more imagination and team work. 

“So Christmas Across South Lake was born this year because of that,” Lowe said. “We didn’t want any families to fall through the cracks or be missed." 

After that, with the help of neighbors, local businesses, corporate sponsors, and everyone in-between, Lowe found new and safe ways to make sure more than 2,000 Lake County children had toys under their trees and food on their tables this year. 

“COVID, you know, changes everything for everybody, so we’ve had drive-thru toy drops that we have done, we’ve had angel trees that went out so that individuals could actually adopt angels, we’ve had different civic groups and clubs that have adopted entire families,” Lowe said.

Toys, games, and books of all kinds have poured into the Santa Shack this year, enough to give every child in need at least $50 worth.

The outpouring of support from all over the area left Lowe awestruck. 

“Every little bit made a difference, and it had a huge impact on our community,” Lowe said. 

“You know the parking attendant worker at a theme park; to the one who lost their job, you know, at the restaurants; to our executives in big corporate, COVID in 2020, we all felt it, so to be able to unite together in South Lake and our community step up and be able to do that and give back, to me, that is the best Christmas gift ever. 

All her efforts make Lowe an Everyday Hero in her community. 

Lowe said the group already is planning on making Christmas Across South Lake even bigger and better next year. Planning meetings are lined up for as early as March, she said.