Police departments in Cedar Park and Leander are partnering with local businesses and the community to provide toys to families in need, so children can have a brighter holiday season.
Area police are accepting donations and new, unwrapped toys for its annual Blue Santa program, which helps as many as 500 families during the toy drive every year.
Donation barrels can be found at partnered grocery stores, pharmacies, businesses and city buildings, as well as both the Leander and Cedar Park police stations. Books, bikes, stuffed animals, action figures and the like are separated into age-appropriate categories and Christmas boxes are filled for families who apply for assistance. Names are also submitted by churches, schools, and Health and Human Services agencies.
Donations of new toys and cash are accepted through Dec. 8.
Depending on donations, families are given a few pantry items and given new blankets and a space heater, too.
Toys are needed most for children ages zero to 2 years old and older kids ages 14 to 17, said CPPD Sgt. Jessie Campbell — who has helped organize Blue Santa programs for 24 years.
“Normally for infants and the smaller kids, we’ll go out and purchase things,” he said. “We fall short on the older kids. We try to put out there that we need toys for kids 14 through 17. Those are the ones we really struggle getting.“
In addition to toys, hygiene products such as diapers, baby shampoo, baby oil, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant are encouraged donations.
Community members will also have an opportunity to donate during the Old Town Leander Christmas parade Dec. 2, where Leander PD will be accepting toys.
In lieu of toys, cash donations are also welcome, and may be delivered or mailed to the police departments or made online using PayPal.
“We’re always seeing a need for the people that are registering as the community has been growing,” said Leader Sgt. Helen Garrett. “We have Giving Tree cards if people would like to come to the police department so I can give them the card. Each card there’s a suggested gift if you’re unsure what to buy.”
The weekend of Dec. 16 and 17, the departments have their distribution days where registered parents come through to pick up their Christmas boxes, where they can later wrap and play “Santa” on Christmas.
“This is the most rewarding thing I do in my job,” Campbell said. “It’s our opportunity to give back, and it shows we do more than go out and arrest people. You can’t get better than helping people, that’s what it’s all about.”
Requirements to register to receive gifts from the program are:
•Proof of Residence: such as a current utility bill in applicant's name
•Current Photo ID: Texas Driver's license, TX ID card, or green card
•For each family member 12 and under, a birth certificate, guardianship papers or current school enrollment documentation is required
The Blue Santa toy drive program has been an annual charity drive since 1972.
“This is the most generous community I’ve ever experienced,” Campbell said. “The amount of support we get each year is amazing. They turn out and we get plenty of donation and we never fall short of giving. They’re the most generous people I’ve ever experienced.”
For more information, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities, call 512-260-4646 or 512-260-4864 for Cedar Park, or contact the Leander Community Services Division at 512-528-2812 or Cpl Bobby Amidon at 512-528-2800.