Leander Blue Santa brings community together to help neighbors


Holiday cheer abounds this season as Leander Blue Santa gears up for another year of helping area families fulfill some of their Christmas wishes. The final day for a family to register to participate as a recipient in the toy donation program is Sunday, Dec. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Leander H-E-B shopping center.

Thirty blue barrels have been stationed at busy locations around the city, and residents are encouraged to drop donated toys in the barrels to help their neighbors. Donors also may adopt a family, donate time, wrap gifts, or offer donations that will help older children and the elderly with specific needs.

The Leander Police Department spearheads this annual toy distribution that complements other area programs to ensure all families within Leander ISD are served, according to Police Chief Greg Minton.

“Borders don’t make a difference,” Minton said. “I don’t care if its Leander, Cedar Park, or Liberty Hill, we’re going to help them. The ultimate goal is to make sure all the kids are taken care of.”

Minton helped the city get involved with the nationwide Blue Santa program shortly after he joined the department in the mid-1990s.

“I was working the street, probably my second or third year, and I was working on Christmas Eve,” he said. “I went to a house – there was a disturbance, an argument. There were some kids there, and I started talking to them about Christmas. I asked if they were excited about it, and they said it was just another day.”

Minton and others on the Leander police force, gathered presents for that family, something that planted the seed for partnering with the national Blue Santa program to help even more people, he said.

The program has expanded over the years, and the city eventually began working with the non-profit Hill Country Christmas Bureau (HCCB) to accommodate the increased requests.

“As we grew, the need was greater,” Minton said. “We help them [HCCB] with staff and support. They run the organization as far as the registration and logistics.”

Later this month, a “fill day” is planned when volunteers will gather to wrap and fill requests and facilitate pickup and delivery of toys and other items. Volunteers include police, fire and city personnel, members of the Citizens Police Academy and its alumni association, and those representing local businesses and churches.

“They have a heart of gold,” Minton said about the volunteers.

Marcia Back, a police academy alum and LISD substitute teacher, has volunteered with Blue Santa for more than a decade, often delivering barrels, picking up bicycles, or helping with registration. Last year, she expanded her efforts and helped match families with Christmas trees and decorations, finding donated trees wherever she could.

“It’s amazing,” Back said. “It makes you feel really good.”

She sometimes discovers students who may have needs that can be filled by this and other programs, and she said she likes knowing that the Blue Santa efforts help people in her own community.

Not only is the department collecting toy donations, but blankets, clothing, bicycles, cash donations and gift cards are welcome. Back said during registration volunteers ask parents for specific ideas for presents that children may want.

“If we don’t collect it, they [volunteers] go out and shop and get specifically what the kids have asked for,” she said.

Police and volunteers are gathering bicycles again this year for the Blue Santa Bike Challenge. Last year, more than 200 bikes were collected. The tradition started a few years ago when Minton had a chance meeting with a young girl walking with a broken bicycle. After repairing the bike and noticing how worn it was, he was inspired to add a bike challenge component to the city’s Blue Santa initiative.

“Kids’ primary transportation in Leander sometimes is bikes,” he said, “and who doesn’t love a shiny new bike.”

Find out more at Leandertx.gov or call (512) 528- 2812 to get involved.

Registration dates:

Nov. 27, 2-4 p.m.

Nov. 28, 6:30-8 p.m.

Nov. 29, 6:30-8 p.m.

Nov. 30, 6:30-8 p.m.

Dec. 4, 2-4 p.m.

Registration requirements:

1. Proof of residence (current utility bill in applicant’s name)

2. Current photo ID

And for each family member under 12:

3. Birth certificate or guardianship papers

4. Current school enrollment documentation (latest report card)

Location:HEB Shopping Center

651 North US Hwy 183 

For more information, call 512-773-5878 or go to www.hillcountrychristmas.org

Please Do Not Bring Children to Registration.