Blue Santa applications available Nov. 14, first sign up Nov. 17 at Pilot Travel Center

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov 11, 2007 - If you see him out and about in the community this holiday, don’t be fooled by the suit. By no means does Santa have the holiday blues. The holiday elf is as jolly as ever and will once again be spreading holiday cheer this season.

Blue Santa is a program, started in Hopkins County in 1997 by sheriff’s officials, to help provide Christmas gifts for those children ages birth to 12 years whose families are in need and who are not receiving help from another program such as Empty Stocking or the Salvation Army Angel Tree. Hopkins County Law Enforcement Association has continued to support the program annually, with Sulphur Springs Law Enforcement Association joining in the efforts each year since 2002. 

�Blue Santa is an organization designed to assist struggling, working families who make too much for financial assistance but are struggling to make ends meet and can�t provide Christmas for their families. This is for the ones that fall through the cracks. This is to help meet the needs of children who fall between the cracks,� said June Roach with HCLEA.

SSLEA will handle applications for assistance for children in the city and HCLEA for those in the county this year.

HCLEA will officially kick off their annual toy drive next Saturday, Nov. 17, with it’s first sign up session. Blue Santa’s helpers will be on hand from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at Pilot Travel Center to hand out applications and help people get signed up to see if they qualify for assistance from Blue Santa.

Those unable to make that HCLEA Blue Santa sign up date may do so Dec. 8, between 9 a.m. and 12 noon at VF Outlet Mall. Blue Santa applications will also be available at the police department or sheriff’s office beginning Nov. 14. All applications to be returned to HCLEA must be in no later than Dec. 14 to be considered for participation in the program. In order to orderly facilitate distribution and fill needs, no one will be allowed to sign up for Blue Santa the day the toys are handed out, according to HCLEA. Those returning applications to SSLEA must return them to the police station no later than 10 a.m. Dec. 18 for consideration.

When turning in Blue Santa applications, parents are asked to bring copies of each child’s Social Security cards or a copy of their school records to identify the child. Also bring proof of family income to show need, according to Lazarus.

All gifts will be handed out Dec. 22 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. HCLEA will notify those approved to receive a little help from them and Blue Santa will be notified the week of Dec. 17 when to pick up their gifts. Parents will also be allowed to take their children’s pictures with Blue Santa during the distribution Dec. 22.

Members of the two sponsoring officer groups, HCLEA and SSLEA, will soon begin distributing the blue barrels for donation to various businesses and other locations which have agreed to house the donation receptacles. The labeled barrels will be located in all county schools, as well as more than 25 businesses throughout the county, including Pilot Travel Center, Dollar General Stores, Super Handy stores, James Hulen Photography and Joe Bob’s Stores.

Toys may be donated in the barrels, with the greatest being items for 10-12 year-olds and newborn to 2-year-olds. HCLEA requests please no stuffed animals this year due to the community’s generosity in previous years which has provided ample stock for this year’s drive. Items suggested for birth-age one include bath tubs, toilet trainer seats and growth charts; and for kids 10-12, gift cards up to $20, electronic games, movies, games and music CDs are recommended. Gift cards for up to $20 each for older children, who are often harder to buy for, can be donated at either Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office or Sulphur Springs Police Department.

Monetary donations to assist Blue Santa may also be made by calling Tina Lazarus with HCLEA at 903-438-4046, or contacting Lazarus or Pinkie Cooper at Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office, or by calling SSPD at 903-885-7602, or visiting the police station. Checks can be written to the law enforcement association, and are tax deductible — receipts will be given this year for monetary donations.

In addition to the blue barrels, some businesses also help sponsor the program each year, either by making contributions or offering incentives for customers to donate, or hosting events to assist Blue Santa.

Two new sponsors this year are Starplex Cinemas and James Hulen Photography. Starplex will give customers one ticket for every toy donated to Blue Santa during the month of the toy drive. From the tickets, a drawing will be held for free movie memorabilia or free things at the business. Hulen is offering a free sitting for every toy donated at his business. 

In addition to Pilot and VF Outlet who are hosting Blue Santa sign ups, other businesses, a home school student, bank and a veterans organization will also be assisting in the efforts this year as well.

Dollar General stores in Sulphur Springs will also be offering a 20 percent discount on all toys the weekend of Nov. 18 only as an incentive to give.

One local youth, 14-year-old home-school student Joshua Davis will be donating his talents during the Elvis Tribute program at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Sulphur Springs which begins at 6 p.m. Nov. 29. Davis, son of Deborah Davis, will be doing his Elvis impersonation and Terry Cunningham will entertain with ventriloquist puppets. The event is being sponsored by Sulphur Springs Antique Auction, City National Bank and Roger Reeve. Tickets to the Elvis Tribute at the VFW are $5 for adults with one child admitted free, and the price reduced to $2 for each additional child with the adult. All proceeds will be split three ways between Blue Santa, Empty Stocking and the Angel Tree program.

Star Country Radio morning show host Craig “Moose” Morgan will also once again be hosting a 2-day live toy drive from Discount Wheel and tire. Morgan will be accepting toy donations, but primarily is asking for fund to supplement Blue Santa barrel donations. His goal is to raise about $20,000 to help the program. Moose will arrive the morning of Dec. 17 and remain at the location until the next morning, according to SSLEA’s Mike Morgan.

� The funds will be used to buy toys that are needed. This works better with the applications as the cash donations supplement other toy donations and fill in needs,� the SSLEA officer said. �Infants to 1 and 2 years and 10 to 12 years are the hardest to fill. When people think of children, they usually think of the smaller kids in the other age ranges.�

Blue Santa will also give to one lucky youngster one refurbished Dell computer with a 19 inch monitor courtesy of Anderson Technical Services of Austin, who heard of the Blue Santa program from a friend who is a member of one of the sponsoring agencies and donated it. The names of all of the older children on Blue Santa’s list, those ages 11 and 12, will be placed in a box. One name will be drawn from the box, and that child will be awarded the computer, according to Lazarus.

Should any other business wish to donate larger more costly items such as bicycles to Blue Santa,  a similar process would be used within the appropriate age group to fairly determine who will receive the gifts, according to Lazarus. Tina Lazarus or Pinkie Cooper may be contacted at HCSO, or any SSLEA member at the police station regarding those types of donations, for more information about Blue Santa. Any businesses that have not but been contacted but would like to have Blue Santa barrels, or would like to host Blue Santa events, may also contact Lazarus or Cooper or the police department.

�If they�re not able to get to one of the blue barrel drop off points or the toy drive on the 17th and 18th of December, they can contact the police department and they�ll get hold of the law enforcement association to take car of it. If they have specific items, like bikes, that can�t be dropped in the barrels because they�re too big or money or gift cards, they can bring them to the police station,� SSLEA President Mike Morgan said.�

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