Port Neches Blue Santa to ride this week; volunteers help make Christmas bright

Published 12:36 am Tuesday, December 20, 2022

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Santa’s local helpers were busy this weekend preparing for the big day where they will make Christmas merrier for approximately 44 families in Port Neches.

Port Neches Police Officers Nonprofit Association, which heads up Blue Santa, along with 50-plus volunteers walked the aisles Saturday of Walmart on Memorial Boulevard, filling baskets with toys. From there the boxes were brought to the Wright Building, where they were wrapped Sunday.

Aaron Tabor, board member with the organization and a retired Groves police officer, described what it felt like to shop for children who may not otherwise have toys under the tree.

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“It’s a very humbling experience, especially for a lot of first timers who have never done this in the past,” Tabor said, adding the volunteers are able to help other members in the community who may be in an uncomfortable situation that is different from theirs. 

“It was a great feeling for everybody,” Tabor said.

Heather Burton of My Tribe Nutrition and one of the many volunteers echoed the sentiment.

“It brings me happiness and joy when you can make someone’s Christmas. It means the world to me to see these kids’ faces light up,” Burton said. “I strongly believe this strengthens relationships within the community, too.”

The volunteers showed up at the store at 4 p.m. and shopping was finished at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Gift wrapping took 4 ½ hours on Sunday.

With approximately 150 children on Blue Santa’s list, there were many individual presents. 

“We had right around $37,000 total with $20,000 of that from the Wilton and Effie Hebert Foundation (grant) and the other approximate $17,000 through the community and other businesses who donated,” Tabor said.

This allowed the group to spend more than they normally would per child. Usually they spent $100 per child. This year they spent about $175 approximate per child.

Besides the Christmas gifts, they will also be delivering a holiday meal. Ritter Lumber sponsored 40 spiral hams for the families, and Karen Theis of Courtyard Café is preparing the side dishes. 

Then, beginning Wednesday, Blue Santa will sit in the back of a lighted airboat with the help of Texas Parks and Wildlife and deliver the goodies to 38 locations. Sponsors will be in on the fun as well.

The volunteers were representatives of the following organizations, including Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Game Wardens Jamal Allen, Texas Department of Public Safety-Southeast Texas Region, Trooper Nick Ewton. My Tribe Nutrition, Bradley Law Firm, Swedes Real Estate, The Neches River Wheelhouse, Sugar Momma Confections, Ivy Lane Portraits, MCT Credit Union, Gulf Credit Union, Advantage Real Estate, Montalbano Lumber Company, Ritter Lumber, Central Dispatch, Judge Raquel West, NDN Press, Port Neches-Groves Independent School District, Port Neches-Groves High School Key Club, Port Neches-Groves High School National Honor Society, Landry Insurance Agency and Hebert Public Library.