Orange County's Blue Santa rides again
Last updated 12/1/2020 at 10:54pm
The Orange County Sheriff's Office has been putting on the event for decades to make sure the county's underprivileged children don't go without Christmas gifts.
Deputy John Badeaux has been organizing the event for 14 years.
"It's very rewarding," he explained. "We have a lot of needy people. That's what law enforcement is all about – helping our community."
Parents in need apply from Oct. 1 through Nov. 2 to put their children, aged 13 and under, on the list.
"If somebody calls me now, I refer them to OCS [Orange Christian Services]," Beadeaux said.
Blue Santa is one of several programs in the county providing children Christmas gifts. The Vidor Police Department has its own Blue Santa program, and there's the Salvation Army and Orange Christian Services, among others.
Badeaux says the organizations cross check lists to make sure they can serve as many people as possible. The OCSO Blue Santa program requires gift recipients live in the county and attend county schools. Parents must show utility bills as proof of residence.
"If they receive government aid, are not working, or just can't make it, we don't turn anybody down," Badeaux said.
"Last year, we had 386 children, and this year we have 343 children from 133 families," the deputy said. "And we have families this year that have never applied before.
"With two hurricanes and this pandemic all in 2020, there's a need."
Fundraising typically gets going about the same time as the annual application process, Badeaux said -- in October.
"We ask people to donate money or new toys," he said. "We try to get each child four toys and one bicycle per household, if we have enough donations. If we don't, we just cut back."
People interested in donating to the Sheriff's Blue Santa may stop by the Sheriff's Office at 205 Border St., Orange, or mail a check to that same address, zip code 77630. Checks should be made out to the Orange County Sheriff's Office and marked "Blue Sheriff Account" on the memo line.
Bags of gifts, selected especially for each child and household, are distributed to parents Saturday, Dec. 19 at the VFW on US 87 North.
But almost as much fun for the officers and community volunteers who help with the drive arrives the week before, purchasing the gifts.
Saturday, Dec. 12, the shopping begins at 7 a.m. at the Bridge City Walmart. A couple hours or so later, the action moves to the Walmart in Orange.
"The funds we get are spent in Orange County," Badeaux said, "and we like to spread it around to both communities. Still, we have help [donations] from some Jefferson County businesses as well."
Teams of volunteers are assigned families to shop for on Dec. 12 and information about the boys' and girls' ages. At the register, Badeaux and his elves make sure everything's correct and seal them in plastic bags.
On distribution day, Saturday, Dec. 19, families come to the VFW to pick up their bag of present.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, this year's presentation will see everyone wearing masks and socially distant. Breakfast will be served the families and their will be prize giveaways.
Blue Santa, in his blue Santa Claus suit, will be masked, too.