Blue Christmas

Blue Santa volunteers line a staircase before delivering gifts on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.

For years, area law enforcement’s Blue Santa and Green Santa programs have brightened holidays for children who otherwise might not get to fully experience the joys of the season.

“I think it’s one of the best things we do, because it lasts forever,” New Braunfels police Chief Tom Wibert said of NBPD’s Blue Santa program. “Nobody remembers a speeding ticket five years from now. But if you’re a 4-year-old and the New Braunfels Police Department brings you Christmas, you’ll remember it when you’re 80. 

“It’s a good thing – something that lasts a lifetime.”

Sheriff Mark Reynolds says the same of Comal County Sheriff’s Office’s Green Santa program.

“Not only is it fun to watch these kids when they come into the office, it’s fun knowing those, who might not have received anything, are getting something on Christmas – and that’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

NBPD’s Blue Santa, aided by the New Braunfels Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, and CCSO’s Green Santa, helped by the Comal County Citizens Sheriff’s Alumni Association, annually delivers more than 1,000 holiday gifts to underprivileged children. 

Both programs, also helped by area non-profits that include Tree of Life Church and Kiwanis Club of New Braunfels, differ only in the way they get toys and other gifts to area families.

NBPD’s Blue Santa

Mike Garcia, NBCPAAA co-chair, said the organization has been involved with Blue Santa for 22 years and hopes to reach 102 families and 250 children this year. 

“We raise about $7,000 and $10,000 throughout the year,” he said. “We usually take care of about 100 families, but we’re still working out the numbers for the kids, which could have two or three to a family.”

Tree of Life’s Family Life Center accepts and reviews applications from families, which are interviewed for their kids’ favorite toy requests.

“We make cards and tags listing the requests and put them on Christmas trees throughout the community – at businesses, Walmart, city hall, golf course, Das Rec and other places,” Garcia said. “Folks take the tags and buy the presents and leave them where they got the tag a week before we deliver them.”

There’s two weeks left for those with Blue Santa tags to turn in presents at the lobby at NBPD headquarters. Garcia said this year’s deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13. 

“Whatever tags that are left on the tree, we go out and purchase those presents,” he said. “We also give each family H-E-B gift cards.”

Deliveries of Blue Santa presents, stocked at an undisclosed location, begins bright and early on Dec. 21, as NBPD officers, NBCPAAA members, their families and volunteers, will fill trucks with the goodies, destined for locations throughout the city.

CCSO’s Green Santa

Reynolds said the Green Santa program has evolved since he joined the department 30 years ago, beginning under former Sheriff Jack Bremer. 

“Back then we collected money, turkeys and put together a few gifts for families we knew had needs,” he said. “It has evolved into the program we have today. We get wish lists from the families – their kids write letters – and our elves do the shopping, wrap the gifts and bring them to the office.”

Teresa Hendon, executive assistant to chief deputy Jimmy Jones, said Green Santa has always been managed through CCSO employees. 

“I’ve been coordinating this for three years but I’ve been involved since I joined the sheriff’s office 23 years ago,” she said. 

Hendon said Green Santa also receives applications through Tree of Life, with the CCCSAA assisting in purchasing gifts. 

“We ask all of the CCSO employees to adopt a family, and they go out and buy the gifts for all family members,” she said. “Our goal this year is to serve 60 families, which would be close to 200 children, but we’re still working on the numbers,” she said. 

Hendon recalled last year, when one boy was totally surprised to get a long-wished gift.

“As soon as he saw Santa he ran up with open arms and jumped into his lap, saying ‘Green Santa I love you!’” she recalled. 

When deputies led him out to the car, he noticed one had a bicycle.

“The boy asked, ‘Is that for me?’” and after the deputy said yes, he said ‘That’s the bike I wanted. It’s green – the color I asked for!’” Hendon said. “It was the sweetest thing, and a very special moment.”

She recalled another family, who couldn’t pick up their gifts last year. 

“They couldn’t come, so we delivered them,” she said. “The woman had a child of her own and also had two nieces – all were living in a bad situation.”

Hendon said all of the kids, surprised to see deputies delivering gifts in person “all drew thank you cards and sent them back, which was also very touching.”

Reynolds said the program has come a long way since it first began.

“I’m just privileged to see the program evolve from where it started and I’m sure it will be enhanced with more later on,” he said. “So many people have been helped, and it’s good to see what it has done for the community.”

How to assist

The Kiwanis Club’s ninth annual Blue Santa/Green Santa softball game on Nov. 23, featuring NBPD, CCSO and New Braunfels Fire Department teams, raised thousands for both programs, including $300 to each from the Behind the Blue Line Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club. 

While toys are accepted, Garcia and Hendon said monetary gifts are most welcome at NBPD headquarters, 1488 S. Seguin Avenue, and CCSO’s Fellers Law Enforcement Center, 3005 W. San Antonio Street, where Green Santa will distribute goodies from 4:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“Our entire lobby is transformed for Christmas and our deputies, corrections officers and support staffers will all assist to deliver the toys and gifts to our families’ vehicles,” Hendon said. “Green Santa will be here to greet every child.”

 

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