By Marc Schoder: PNT Correspondent
The Portales Police Department kicked off its sixth annual Operation Santa Cop this year.
The way that the program started was as a community services project, said Portales Police Captain Lonnie Berry. The police department, along with differentcommunity organizations and area businesses, gives toys and monetary donations.
“The first year that we had the program (there was a) list of 50 kids who were going to get gifts that year,” Berry said.
The list for this year has grown to 102 kids of all ages and is expected to grow according to Berry.
“When the idea came about six years ago, the chief thought it was a good idea and that is how it has continued over the years,” said Berry.
The police captain added that it was fun to watch the police department transform to an area of gifts that are stacked up in the hallways.
One of the many presents that the officers deliver to kids around the county are bikes that are rounded up from around town from private individuals, then fixed up then given to kids who might not see anything under the christmas tree.
“We get bikes that are donated throughout the year from individuals in the community,” says Berry. “We had a woman who was moving out of town at one point bring us a pickup truck full of bike parts as well.”
The presents that the children receive are not just limited to bicycles. Different community organizations from around town like the Portales High School National Honor Society as well as the Portales Lions Club have been gathering gifts to give to area kids of all ages as well.
“The National Honor Society at the high school are getting some of the hotter gifts of the year,” Berry said.
When the present are wrapped and ready to go its up to a few officers to deliver them, including officer Kirk Wilson.
“I have been on the force for over five years and when I am asked I jump up at the opportunity to do it every year,” Wilson said. “It’s nice to show up to the homes that we deliver the gifts to and that we are there on a good note.”
Wilson said that it was fun to be able to go to someone’s home and be able to repeat the giving of gifts over and over again.
“You can’t explain in words the feeling of Christmas giving, and the wanting to repeat this every year,” Wilson said. “The response is so great that the on-duty officers want to get in on delivering the gifts that take about two to three days to get totally distributed.”
Berry added that even a kid who is 14 or 15 years old can be just as lonely without a gift to open at Christmas just as a young kid would be. The Mayor’s Christmas Tree, which provided gifts for 210 children earlier this week, focuses on children 13 or younger.
“We do accept donations from the general public,” Berry said. “All they need to do is to come by the police station front desk.”