Police and fire chief race the clock in Operation Blue Santa shopping spree

APD interim Chief Brian Manley and AFD Chief Rhoda Kerr fill up carts in a 2 minute dash to support Operation Blue Santa (KXAN Photo)
APD interim Chief Brian Manley and AFD Chief Rhoda Kerr fill up carts in a 2 minute dash to support Operation Blue Santa (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two top Austin public safety officials took part in a shopping spree Tuesday morning to support Operation Blue Santa, the organization staffed by Austin Police Department employees that collects and delivers donated gifts to families in need.

APD interim Chief Brian Manley and Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr had two minutes to run through the aisles of the Sam’s Club store in southwest Austin and collect as many electronics and toys as they could — up to $10,000 — to be used for next year’s silent auction to raise money to buy gifts.

The two chiefs collected everything from robotics vacuum cleaners and remote-controlled cars to a set of pots and pans and plastic coolers. The total cost after two minutes of shopping came out to about $5,300 — which RetailMeNot says is similar to the amount collected in year’s past. It will give Operation Blue Santa a check for $4,700 to make up the difference.

APD interim Chief Brian Manley laces up his shoes in preparation for a race against AFD Chief Rhonda Kerr to benefit Operation Blue Santa on Dec. 12, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
APD interim Chief Brian Manley laces up his shoes in preparation for a race against AFD Chief Rhonda Kerr to benefit Operation Blue Santa on Dec. 12, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

Digital discount site RetailMeNot financed the shopping spree, which they’ve done for the last five years.

It comes as volunteers are starting to pack up boxes of toys and gifts for 4,300 families to be delivered this Saturday by Operation Blue Santa.

“This is a generational thing here in Austin, Texas,” said Mike Sheffield, manager of APD’s community liaison and treasurer of Operation Blue Santa. “It’s what makes Austin a great place to live. The community takes care of each other, they’re giving, and they care about the folks that otherwise wouldn’t have a nice Christmas.”

The group expects 2,000-2,500 volunteers to take part in the weekend delivery, and they’re inviting anyone who wants to take part to show up Saturday at 8 a.m. at one of four locations:

  • The central donation center at 4101 S. Industrial Drive, Ste. 460
  • APD’s east substation at 812 Springdale Road
  • APD’s north substation at 12425 Lamplight Village Ave.
  • APD’s south substation at 404 Ralph Ablanedo Dr.

Volunteers will get one or two boxes to load up into their cars and take to a registered family.

“Anybody that wants to participate, you’re welcome to come out,” Sheffield said. “This is when we get the majority of our volunteers, people in their cars coming out to deliver these packages.”

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