The Wharton Police Department (WPD) is gearing up for its sixth year of spreading holiday cheer through Wharton’s Blue Santa.
In lieu of a sleigh and reindeer, officers in patrol cars and trucks lead Blue Santa to deliver toys to the community’s underprivileged children.
Since 2014, WPD officers, along with community organizations and volunteers touch the lives of Wharton families by collecting, purchasing and delivering presents each year.
This program started to bridge the gap between residents and police officers and to build unity within the community.
“When WPD Chief Terry Lynch came here, one of his top goals was to create a bond between our department and the community,” WPD Lt. Ben Guanajuato told The County Gin.
“Especially, when you see what’s happening across our country involving the distrust between communities and officers; we don’t have that here. Our police department and community are united and programs like this help to only build up that unity.
The department teamed up with Just Do It Now Inc. the first year, but as the need continually grew, the community support expanded to include the involvement of multiple organizations and the introduction of a fundraiser.”
“In 2018, the American Legion Post 87 assisted in raising funds for Blue Santa,” Guanajuato said. “Last year we raised $7,000 in addition to the donated toys and were able to serve near 200 families, giving each child four to five gifts.”
The lieutenant hopes this year’s Blue Santa fundraiser, planned for Nov. 12, will raise even more to assist more families than ever before.
“Blue Santa grows every year,” he said. “At first, we started by providing toys to families within the city limits, we’ve never turned down people. We’ve helped families in El Campo, East Bernard and Boling. We try to fill everything local first and then move to surrounding towns.
“The success of this project is due to the response we receive from community members, businesses and organizations.”
In addition to the fundraiser, WPD has placed donation boxes at local businesses to collect new, unwrapped toys.
“We have about 12 drop-off locations now, which include WPD and Wharton City Hall,” Guanajuato told The Gin. “If anyone would like to put a box at their business, they can contact me or the department.”
Guanajuato said that the success of this event would not be possible without community involvement, noting, “It’s a big community event. I can’t just say it’s all the Wharton Police Department. Everybody steps up at this time of the year to aid this project and the more people that get involved, the better.”
Aside from monetary and toy donations, the event requires volunteers for sorting and delivering.
“When we setup to start sorting at the Wharton Civic Center, it reminds me of that feeling I used to get when walking into a Toys R Us,” Guanajuato said. “There will be stacks from floor to ceiling all along the walls. It’s a lot of work getting those sorted and ready for delivery.”
Guanajuato added the memories created from this event make late nights of sorting and collecting worth it.
“It’s a real good feeling when you’re going around town in a parade of patrol cars and pickups with all the gifts. Then, pulling up to a home to see the kids’ faces light up when they see the Blue Santa come out. When these kids come up to you to give you hugs, it just makes you happy to see them so happy.”
With each hug received, Guanajuato feels the trust between community and department grow.
”When we do this and the officers are out there in uniform, it builds a better relationship with the younger generation,” he told The Gin. “We’re here to help them and need them to know we are their friends. The worst that could happen is for a child to be afraid of an officer and not reach out for help if they need it.”
To purchase meal tickets or to inquire how you can become involved with Blue Santa, contact Lt. Ben Guanajuato at (979) 532-3131.