Traditionally Santa Claus wear’s red. But in Galveston County, he also wears blue or tan and sometimes wears a badge or is escorted by friendly police officers. At times, police and firefighters serve as his elves who take children shopping so they have a joyful holiday.
Police agencies across Galveston County this week kicked off their Blue Santa programs to help bring Christmas to underprivileged children who might otherwise go without.
It was the fifth year for the departments’ Blue Santa program, but the first that didn’t focus on going door-to-door, when police would hand out gifts to about 40 families. Instead, the program handed out gifts for about 220 3- and 4-year-olds who are part of the Head Start program.
All of the students are underprivileged, Texas City Head Start Director Susan Wilson said.
Some of whom would not have a Christmas otherwise, Wilson said.
“There was one girl, you could tell she had never opened a present before,” she said. “She had to be helped. You know that this was probably the only Christmas gift she would get this year.”
With the larger group, the police officers were stretched to provide for everyone, but program coordinator Neal Mora said BP stepped in with a $5,000 donation to help meet the need.
The joy will continue to be distributed next week to five families adopted by the Texas City police.
In League City, Santa doesn’t deliver toys. Rather, his helpers who wear the police and firefighters uniforms take children shopping at the city’s Walmart.
Local churches and community organizations such as Interfaith Caring Ministries recommend families in need to the program’s coordinators officers Christy Galyean and Reagan Pena.
Then children selected go on a shopping spree escorted by either a League City police officer or fireman.
“A lot of these kids are afraid of police officers,” Galyean said. “They are taught almost to fear us, but when they are paired up with a firefighter or police officer who is their shopping buddy and is not someone to be afraid of.”
About 100 children will go shopping with their police or fire buddies this year, Galyean said. They then head to Esteban’s for a breakfast and one-on-one time with Santa.
But the help given goes beyond the shopping trip for children.
Local businesses also step up to help families with items such as car repair or clothing.
Recently, Galyean came across a family, the parents and four children, who had been without water since late November when they couldn’t afford to pay the bill. Galyean put a call out to her fellow officers and city employees who rallied and paid off that bill as well as one for an unemployed single mom with three children who would soon have her water disconnected.
The single mom also had a job interview lined up this week thanks to the efforts of Galyean, who forwarded her résumé on to a local business.
Cindy Ginn and Esther Montalvo, who work in the department’s records division, coordinate Dickinson Police Officer Association’s Blue Santa effort.
“We spend about $30 to $40 for each child, and we try to give each one three gifts,” Ginn said. “We also buy each family a $50 Kroger gift card.”
Santa meets up with more than 200 children next week as each family is given big blue bags stuffed with the gifts at the police station. The Dickinson police and their Santa also visit local day cares with more gifts, Ginn said.
In Galveston, about 139 families will receive assistance from the department’s Blue Santa program, coordinated by Officer Joey Quiroga.
The focus this year was to get children gifts that would get them away from TV watching and video games. Instead officers focused on getting outdoor equipment, such as skateboards, bicycles and sporting equipment, to be handed out the weekend before Christmas.
The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office deputies get into the Christmas spirit as well, but their Santa doesn’t wear red or blue. Actually, he wears tan and is called Deputy Claus. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo said.
More than 100 county children will receive their gifts from Deputy Claus and his sheriff’s office elves this weekend, Tuttoilmondo said.
At a glance
Almost all of the Blue Santa programs in Galveston County reported a need for donations as demand outpaces what’s been donated. If you would like to help:
League City Police: Christy Galyean and Reagan Pena at 281-338-4176. Cash donations or Walmart gift cards only. A secure donation box is also in the police station lobby, 500 West Walker. Donations accepted through Friday.
Dickinson Police: Contact Cindy Ginn and Esther Montalvo. Cash donations preferred. Can be dropped off at police station, 4000 Liggio, or call 281-337-4700.
Galveston Police: Cash donations or donations of bikes, skateboards or sporting equipment accepted. Contact Officer Joey Quiroga at 409-256-0762.
Galveston County Deputy Sheriff’s Association: Call 409-766-2322.