Police provide Christmas gifts to local children

Approximately 350 children received gifts during the Orange County Blue Santa ev
Police provide Christmas gifts to local children

Santa in Blue and his generous crew recently took a sleigh ride through Beaumont neighborhoods, spreading holiday cheer while distributing Christmas gifts to a multitude of excited and grateful children.

Over 200 local children got a visit from the Beaumont Police Department’s blue-clad Santa Claus, who carried a big bag filled with a variety of goodies from door to door. Children received bicycles, Barbie dolls, board games, and other nifty gifts they can check off their Christmas wish lists.

Each year, numerous officers participate in the Santa in Blue program in which collected toys and clothing are distributed to disadvantaged children throughout the city of Beaumont. BPD officers nominate the recipients, and then Santa in Blue, loaded down with wrapped presents a-plenty, pays the families a visit sometime around Christmas.

BPD Officer Justin Proenza said officers working beats often come across deserving families who “just don’t have enough” to provide Christmas presents for their children.

“The officers recommend them for the program,” Proenza explained. “Some are burglary victims, victims of fire and people in need. One family nominated this year had everything destroyed in a fire. They had two children, so we stepped up and provided for these kids.”

Concetta Balka and her three children, 2-year-old Jacob, 6-year-old Raegan and 10-year-old Nathan, received a visit from Santa in Blue on Dec. 10. Concetta said thanks to BPD, this Christmas is going to be much more bountiful than she ever expected.

“I was planning on buying one or two presents for each of my children because I could only afford a few gifts,” single mom Concetta related. “I knew our family had been chosen because they left a note on the door, but I was not expecting so much. I was shocked. It’s a big help, and I’m so thankful. This has brightened up my children’s Christmas very much. It’s so awesome.”

“It’s a Christmas miracle,” Nathan said gleefully.

Officers Proenza and Tom Swope adopted leadership of BPD’s Santa in Blue program 12 years ago and “reinvented it,” according to Proenza – quadrupling the number of children served over that period of time.

“It’s grown quite a bit,” said Proenza. “When we took over, about 50 children received gifts. Now, we are able to provide gifts for more than 200 children.”

Proenza explained that is because he and Officer Swope initially went around town telling local businesses about the program and garnered a lot of interest. Once business owners learned about the program and discovered that it would serve Beaumont children who might not otherwise have much in the way of gifts at Christmas, the philanthropic spirit of the season and generosity of those community leaders became obvious.

“We went from soliciting business to business to actually having people and businesses call us to see how they can help,” he said. Proenza added that schools and other groups have joined with officers to bring joy and gifts to local youth. The Kelly High School Art Club, the Beaumont Police Explorers and volunteers from Universal Coin and Bullion have taken over the shopping for the two officers in charge of the program, a task they once had to undertake without assistance. The Kelly students shopped for personalized gifts for the list of recipients, purchasing more than 1,000 gifts during their shopping excursion, said Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School Director of Development Deborah Healey Drago.

Groves Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society, student council, Brave Believers, the Brave Brigade cheer pep squad and members of the girls’ athletics team had a wrapping party with volunteering officers to put the final touches on the presents before the big delivery day.

Groves Middle School Librarian and National Junior Honor Society advisor Jamie Evans said students and teachers volunteered to help with the wrapping, which she said was a service project between multiple organizations at the school.

“We try to teach the kids to give back to the community,” Evans asserted. “We are teaching them concepts beyond the textbook. They are learning from this experience. It’s really moving that they want to help this way. They are staying after school. This is their time. They are not required to do this. It’s amazing.”

According to Evans, approximately 90 people gathered at the middle school cafeteria to wrap more than 1,000 presents on the evening of Dec. 7.

“There are more than 150 boxes with between three and eight presents each, and that’s not including the bicycles outside,” said Evans.

Students Kyler Richard, Britney Brevell, Tristin DeCuir and Harlie Cowart teamed up to wrap Santa in Blue gifts at a cafeteria table. Brevell, an eight-grader at the school, said she is involved in a few organizations on campus and has been participating in the wrapping parties since sixth grade.

“We get together every year to wrap presents for the program,” said Brevell. “We are very happy to help kids and their families who need it this time of year. We do it because we want to help.”

“They’ve been very helpful,” Proenza asserted of Santa in Blue’s little helpers.

“They get a pizza party, and they get the chance for fun and fellowship,” Officer Swope, the man behind the Santa beard, said of the middle-schoolers. “But it’s not just about the pizza and fun. They are kind, and they want to do something good for someone else. It’s inspiring.”

BPD’s Santa in Blue collects donations for the program throughout the year. To get involved, contact Officer Swope at tswope [at] ci [dot] beaumont [dot] tx [dot] us.

 

Orange County

BPD’s Santa in Blue isn’t the only blue-clad Claus giving away goodies around the area. Orange County’s Blue Santa program reached approximately 350 children in 150 families in the community this year, the largest Blue Santa toy giveaway Orange County has ever held.

“This program would not be possible without the generous donations and help of our community,” OCSO wrote after the event. “We would especially like to thank all of the volunteers that came out and helped us shop, package, and give away the items for our Blue Santa Program. It’s very heart-warming to see our community coming together to help us with such a great program. We are excited that we are able to help make Christmas better for many less fortunate families in Orange County.”

shadow