PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

December 20, 2013

Blue Santa brings Christmas joy to hundreds

PORT ARTHUR — Desiree Guidry and Reginald Stephenson are feeling blessed this holiday season.

The couple, along with children Aleena Stephenson, 8, and Taden Stephenson, 4, were among hundreds who received some extra help from Port Arthur Police Department’s Blue Santa Program at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center on Friday.

“We are very grateful,” Reginald Stephenson said with a big smile as they waited in line for a volunteer to bring their bag of gifts. The father remembers the program from many years ago and called the program “awesome.”

Proud mom Guidry said she feels blessed for the assistance the family is receiving at Christmas.

“We are a one income household trying to take care of everything,” Guidry said. “We feel very blessed.”

Rita and L.J. Menard were also very thankful for the assistance. The couple are raising their grandchildren, Rayena, 3, and Braeyden, 2, after their mother died earlier this year.

“This is a great idea for those who really need it,” Rita Menard said while holding her granddaughter’s hand. “I haven’t been able to work while taking care of the grandchildren.”

Port Arthur Officer Eli Van Horn said the program has been in existence for 20 years and it takes almost a full year to raise funds for a successful program. The Blue Santa Program also hosts the annual Trunk R Treat and National Night Out and is looking at starting a Cops and Kids event in the spring.

A number of businesses contribute to the program including the Hughen Center, Valero, Mardi Gras Krewes and the law office of McPherson, Hughes, Bradley Wimberley, Steele & Chatelain, LLP hold an annual silent auction.

Port Arthur Officer Mike Hebert contacted The News’ Bob West when looking for special items to place in the silent auction. West contacted Port Arthur native and former pro football coach Jimmy Johnson who sent an autographed Thomas Jefferson High School football helmet which brought in about $1,500; a Port Neches-Groves High School helmet autographed by the interim head coach for the Houston Texans, Wade Phillips; and a football autographed by Port Arthur native and Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

“We ended up brining in about $14,000 in the silent auction,” Hebert said.

Families and children who winded their way through the line at the civic center were treated to some snacks. Officer Marcelo Molfino cooked up enough links and hot dogs to feed 600 as well as a special meal for the volunteers who assisted at the event.

Kid also had a chance to pose for a photo with Blue Santa and Mrs. Blue Santa, also known as Mark Hanlon of Trinity Hearing and Balance and his wife Dr. Kelly McConnell. The couple have participated in the event for a number of years.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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