The fifth annual Santa Cop has hit the ground with its wheels turning and teens and children will soon turn their own wheels on the new bicycles delivered by the Santas wearing badges.
Approximately 45 bicycles and almost 75 other toys will be given away this year to children of need by the police-sponsored program.
Toy donations, such as bicycles, are made throughout the year or are donated to the Portales Police Department. The bicycles needing repairs are fixed a couple of months before Christmas, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry — three Roosevelt County inmates volunteered to help with repairs. Last year the Portales High School teens helped repair the bicycles.
“I’ve been impressed with the folks working from the Roosevelt (County) Detention Center in general this year,” Berry said. “We had some guys who were excellent repair people and they were able to fix the bicycles in no time at all.”
Berry stated that the bicycles were replaced with new tires, pedals and chains. He also said the bicycles were tested to ensure safety.
The idea originated on what Berry said was the sad look on the faces of the teens who weren’t receiving any presents because of their age.
“We found that there were a lot of kids missed by programs when we were delivering toys,” Berry said. “We weren’t taking presents to 12-, 13- or 14-year-old kids. We were giving gifts to the kids in grade school. The officers would tell us that they saw the sad look on their eyes and that they couldn’t bear it. They said that something needed to be done.”
The Santa Cop program will be delivering presents to 119 teens and children in the area, Berry estimated. Officers for the Portales Police Department and the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department began delivering presents on Friday and continued through Saturday.
“Now the fun starts,” Berry said. “We have our officers go out throughout the county and deliver toys. We look forward to seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
Police officer Shawn Burrow saw first-hand the smile it brought to one of the recipients. Burrow delivered a make-up doll head kit to 10-year-old Genevieve Ortega of Portales on Friday. Ortega has received presents, such as a Yatzee game, in previous years from the program.
“I feel happy,” Ortega said with a wide smile. “I’m going to practice putting makeup on it.”
Ortega’s aunt, Pauline Gomez, said she is grateful for the gift to her niece and that it helps during financial strain to provide toys for the children.
“They (police department) help us out a lot,” Gomez said. “It’s tough around Christmas (to be able to give toys).”
Berry said that they received donations from Century Cable, Yucca Telecommunications and church groups. He said that the biggest donations came from the Portales high and junior high schools.