Operation Santa Claus under way

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

Santa Claus will come by mode of police car for many Roosevelt County children this year.

Holiday spirit is in full swing at the Portales Police Department as officers collect toys and cash donations for its eighth annual Operation Santa Claus. In addition to toys, canned foods will also be distributed to needy families this year, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry.

Berry said the department will be taking names of needy children, up to age 18, right on up until Dec. 24. Police officers will begin delivering gifts on Dec. 20, once children are out of school for the holidays.

“If anyone knows of people having a tough time, all we need is the name and ages of the children, their address and a contact number,” said Berry, who expects anywhere from 300 to 400 names of children to end up on the list. Last year, the police department delivered toys to 250 children with the help of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department.

“A lot of times, when officers respond to a home this time of year, they will come back and say ‘These people don’t have anything. Can we put together something for them?’” Berry said. “A lot of the children are from single parent homes where it can be a tough time this time of year.”

Berry said that names received will be checked against other names included in other Christmas projects such as the Mayor’s Christmas Tree to make sure there are no duplications. “We are trying to fill the gap of some of the older children who are missed by the Mayor’s Christmas tree,” he added.

Used items in good condition are also being accepted, Berry said, in particular, bicycles. “We have bicycles that we refurbish throughout the year. We do some of the work and we also get a little help from some of the jail inmates, making sure that the tires are good, making sure the gears work good and everything.”

Donations are being accepted at the police department at 1700 N. Boston as well as at Hunton Insurance Inc., through the Lion’s Club, local schools and through other community organizations. Berry said that some local volunteers are conducting the food drive but the food will be disbursed through Operation Santa Claus.

Police officer Kendall Richardson, more commonly known as “Pooh Bear,” will once again play Santa Claus and help deliver gifts to children.

“I’ve been involved with Operation Santa Claus since the day it started,” said Richardson, a police officer of 13 years. “Nearly every drop off that I’ve made has been an experience because you just see the kids’ eyes light up because of the gifts they otherwise wouldn’t have been given.”

Berry said the police department is also willing to pick up donations that people may want to make but cannot deliver themselves. For more information about Operation Santa Claus call 356-4404, ext. 300.