• 41°

PAPD’s Blue Santa makes holidays merrier for hundreds in Port Arthur

This year, 2020, has been a tough one for many in Southeast Texans, so Port Arthur Police’s Blue Santa program is working to the very last minute to make this a merry Christmas for hundreds of children.

Toys lined up on a table to be given to local children. (Mary Meaux/The News)

But there were worries this year’s program could be in trouble.

“Obviously we were somewhat nervous when the donations came in because of COVID, and secondly, we were overwhelmed with calls and applications,” Det. Mike Hebert said. “And this is by far is the most applications we’ve done.”

Hebert expects to get some desperate last minute calls from grandmothers and single moms in bad situations, losing jobs, dealing with illnesses.

The station receives many calls for Christmas holiday help. Hebert saved one call from an ill grandmother raising her granddaughter. The woman was so emotional in the call, Hebert said, that he let other people working on the Blue Santa program hear the message so they will know what this program is really about.

The giveaway held Friday wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of donors such as Valero, Sempra LNG and some who do not want to reveal their names. Hebert didn’t want to try to make a listing of donors for fear of leaving someone out, he said.

Tammy Ortiz and her son Antonio Ortiz look through bags for gifts for a family. The two have volunteered their time for a number of years as a way to help the community and support the Blue Santa program. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Volunteers, some with the department, some are students from the local high schools and some are civilians, come together Friday in the spirit of the season. Hebert said they see some of the volunteers once a year and when they gather for the program, it’s like a family getting together.

Due to COVID precautions the event has changed. Instead of families lining up and funneling inside the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, where they receive their gifts and meet with Santa, they lined up and drove through to receive the toys.

“The one thing we will miss this year, we won’t have the interactions we usually have with the kids and the grandmothers and mothers,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure they drive away with a big smile on their face.”

Police officers and volunteers greet families with hot cocoa and take their information for the Blue Santa program. (Mary Meaux/The News)