The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
For the last two decades, the Port Arthur police department has been spreading holiday cheer across the community.
PAPD’s Blue Santa program is a non-profit organization that gives presents and good tidings to less fortunate children.
When it first started about 20 years ago, the program had 20 kids under its wing. Now, with the help of local businesses and community members, Blue Santa reaches out to more than 700 children and 280 families.
Blue Santa collects donations throughout the year and empties its bank account when Christmas comes. Toys are divided by age group and gender, and volunteers make sure all the kids go home with something in their arms.
“In December, we wipe out Walmart,” Mark Hanlon said.
Hanlon has played the part of Blue Santa for the last four years. He said he and his wife, Kelly, go out to ribbon cuttings and local events to encourage people to “open their wallets and their hearts.”
“Sometimes they don’t even know I’m coming,” he said. “I just show up.”
Families who want to participate in the program can fill out an application at the police department. The deadline is Dec. 7 at 4 p.m.
Hanlon said the applications are reviewed to make sure people receiving the gifts really need them.
“It’s a great way to get involved and help out kids who otherwise may have not had a Christmas,” he said.
Hanlon said the biggest fundraising event is a silent auction at McPherson, Hughes, Bradley Wimberley, Steele & Chatelain, LLP.
“That’s a massive, huge deal,” Hanlon said.
Lance Bradley, one of the firm’s owners, said it has been involved for the last half decade. It hosts a silent auction every year that raises about $15,000 for Blue Santa.
“We used to just have a party with everyone having a good time,” he said. “Then we decided we should do something worthwhile for the community.”
The law firm supported the Salvation Army for a few years, then made a change to support Blue Santa.
“It was kind of struggling at the time, and the Salvation Army gets a lot of support,” Bradley said.
All of the proceeds from the silent auction go directly to Blue Santa, Bradley said, and the firm has raised about $100,000 since it started the auction.
In addition to providing Christmas presents, Blue Santa tries to help out a different group of kids each year, according to Steve Flores, a PAPD detective.
The program has volunteered to help kids with cancer, Hurricane Ike victims, and it also participates in Trunk R’ Treat during Halloween. This year, Flores said, they want to do something for the children of wounded veterans.
“It’s an enjoyment to see the kids,” he said. “It makes you feel good to help.”
Donations and volunteer inquiries can be made through PAPD. The group also has a Facebook page.