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Community comes together to thank South Texas UPS driver for always going above & beyond

There's a favorite saying in Freer, TX: "a community in unity," something that was on full display as residents gathered to thank Armando 'Mando' Garcia.

FREER, Texas — This time of year, there's a lot of anticipation leading up to the arrival of Santa Claus.

What the big man in red may or may not already know however, is that there's a UPS driver in South Texas that could be giving him a run for his money. 

Armando "Mando" Garcia has been with UPS for 35 years, and has been serving the Freer area for a little over a decade now. It's that service and dedication that's now earned him the nickname, the "Santa Claus" of Freer. 

It was last week, Mando was seen pushing his work dolly around, getting packages where they needed to go by foot, after his truck broke down. He was offered rides and extra help, but politely declined, and carried on delivering the packages.

The moment was caught on camera and shared to social media. Freer residents sharing they weren't at all surprised by Mando's dedication, but they still wanted to thank him for it. 

Ariana Ybanez was one of those residents touched by the video. 

She, along with other residents, wanted to plan something special for the man she said consistently goes above and beyond for the community. She made a few posts, asking if any residents or businesses would want to pitch in for some gifts or messages to simply say 'thank you.' She says she was blown away by the response and generosity within her community.

"This man, I already knew he was amazing, but he’s even more amazing. So, I just made a post not really thinking anything," said Ybanez. "I am so thankful that I get to raise my family in this community because after this, it just shows you that even a member who’s not from here, what he does for our community - it’s amazing."

Mando was asked to simply "stop by" the city's park pavilion on Thursday, but was not expecting the surprise gathering that awaited him there. 

Phones and cameras were eagerly raised to capture the moment Mando's truck drove around the corner, down South Duval Avenue. Waiting for him there at the pavilion was a crowd of Freer community members and a table filled with gifts, 'thank you' cards and even a plaque from the city. 

Mayor Martin Martinez Jr. walked up to a very surprised Mando, shook his hand and said, "You're like the Santa Claus of Freer, Texas man!" 

Residents young and old, some in uniform, or taking an extended lunch break all gathered to thank the UPS driver. The thanks came in the form of 'thank you' cards, gift baskets, monetary donations, treats and a plaque that read: "With this recognition, for your passion, unconditional commitment and enduring dedicated service to the citizens of Freer, thank you for rolling that dolly!" 

For Mayor Martinez, he said seeing fellow residents get together like this brings new meaning to the community's slogan: a community in unity.

"He's dedicated and devoted to his job, he’s the Santa Claus in Freer, you see him all over town!" said Mayor Martinez.

Freer resident, Robert Pressell, was also in attendance.

"Mando is somebody that I can count on, no matter where he’s at, he’ll come to you. I like to find out where he’s at and go to him. Make his job a little easier," Pressell said. "I hope that we’re blessed with him for many many more years!” 

Humbled and still surprised by the turnout of residents who gathered to show appreciation for him, the soft-spoken UPS driver spoke to 3NEWS about what this community means to him.

"Deep gratitude because like I tell them, I’m just doing my job," said Garcia. "I try to do it the best I can and the reason I do what I do for them is because of who they are."

Mando said his route begins in Alice, goes through San Diego and then takes him to Freer. He said he is looking forward to getting packages and Christmas gifts delivered to residents the rest of the holiday season.

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