The Turlock Police Department is continuing its tradition of giving back despite the pandemic, providing holiday cheer for local families in need courtesy of Operation Blue Santa.
The program was started in 2012 with the goal of gifting toys and donated items to children and families who need them most. From 2012-2018, Operation Blue Santa gave gifts to an average of 163 children and 82 families each year. Key components of the operation are school and home visits by Blue Santa and presentations on crime prevention and safety. It also relies heavily on volunteers to go out on shopping blitzs with the wish lists of families and gather for gift-wrapping sessions.
After budget and labor constraints put a halt to the program in 2019, Operation Blue Santa successfully returned last year to help 60 underserved families and a total of 180 Turlock children, in spite of economic hardships brought on by COVID-19. This year, the program has already assisted nine families and 26 children, and is on track to deliver gifts to over 100 children this Christmas.
“Some of these children were experiencing their first Christmas without a parent or sibling due to a recent death, had a parent diagnosed with a serious illness, lost their home to a fire, were involved in a tragic incident or were struggling in other ways,” TPD Crime Prevention Specialist Erika Grace, who also helps oversee the operation, said.
Though Blue Santa has already begun making deliveries this holiday season and its list of families is full, community members can still donate to the cause, shop for those in need or attend a gift-wrapping session.
TPD is accepting monetary donations or donations of grocery store gift cards, blue tissue paper and clear packing tape through Dec. 20. Community members will also have the chance to sponsor children through Dec. 20, and to do so can contact TPD’s Crime Prevention Unit at 209-656-3153.
Sponsors will receive a wish list and letter to Blue Santa from a child, and are encouraged to purchase gifts on the list from Turlock stores. Unwrapped presents can be dropped off at the Public Safety Facility (244 N. Broadway) on Dec. 20 and volunteers can help wrap gifts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. that same day.
Donation drop-offs as well as sponsorships can also be arranged by calling the number listed above or by contacting Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org.