AUSTIN (KXAN) – While many are likely knocking out some Christmas shopping this weekend, thousands of local kids are now covered thanks to the Austin Police Department’s Operation Blue Santa.
APD held “delivery day” Saturday with community volunteers helping them deliver gifts to more than 6,000 families with 14,400 children.
“There is a closeness our community has with our first responders that is really special,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “And it is truly one of the reasons why we are the safest big city in Texas.”
It’s the 45th year for the program that started in 1972 and helped 20 families when it first began.
This year, they also expanded their efforts to help Harvey evacuees in Austin and serve as a collection point for hard-hit coastal areas such as Refugio, Rockport and Fulton, said APD Officer Mike Sheffield, who helps coordinate Operation Blue Santa.
They delivered an 18-wheeler flatbed loaded with toys to those communities earlier in the year, he said.
Sheffield said they have a surplus of donations left over every year and that they also receive donations year-round. He said having the extra toys on hand helps when other agencies make a request for aid in different times of the year. It also allows Blue Santa to help people when needs arise – such as when a fire destroys a family’s home.
Sheffield said the Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade is their biggest donation event. If they notice they are short in any category after the parade – such as needing more toys for girls ages 10 to 14 – then they put out that request to the community, and people always meet the need so that no children are ever left out.