Imagine a child who has never tasted ice cream. Then, imagine him tasting the cool, flavorful treat.

That is really what happened when a student at one Alvin school was selected to participate in the Alvin Blue Santa program. A teacher shared that story with Denise Stanaland, the coordinator of Blue Santa for the last several years. Stanaland can tell story after story about the children, who have been selected to have a good Christmas, when they might not have had any gifts, and sometimes no dinner on that special holiday.

In 1997, Blue Santa began with money collected to buy bicycles for children. Bikes, toys and a party were all either donated or money raised to purchase them.

Back in 2000, “Shop With A Cop” was started, and in 2006, it became “Shop with a Blue Santa Volunteer”.

This group helps children ages 12 and under, while Blue Santa works with teens from 13 to 18 years of age.

Two years later organizers decided to change things around and take the youngsters shopping and let them pick out their own presents.

Before Blue Santa shopping day, the organization puts boxes in local stores to collect gifts from shoppers on the first and second Saturdays of December.

The non-profit organization collects cash donations for the annual event, matches up the children with an adult, usually a law enforcement officer from Alvin ISD, Alvin Community College, and even some retired police officers and area coaches.

Matched with an adult, the ages 12 and under, while Blue Santa works with teens from 13 to 18 years of age.

Two years later organizers decided to change things around and take the youngsters shopping and let them pick out their own presents.

Before Blue Santa shopping day, the organization puts boxes in local stores to collect gifts from shoppers on the first and second Saturdays of December.

The non-profit organization collects cash donations for the annual event, matches up the children with an adult, usually a law enforcement officer from Alvin ISD, Alvin Community College, and even some retired police officers and area coaches.

Matched with an adult, the kids enjoy burgers and fries at the McDonald’s on CR1462 where they are given a $5 gift card after the meal; then they are bussed to the Alvin WalMart to buy anything they like for the holiday.

Stanaland, who dresses like Santa’s Elf, says that last year, 68 kids were selected to shop for gifts for themselves, and 10 for groceries for their families for Christmas. They expect more than that this year. “I don’t like to turn a kid down,” said Stanaland.

Many times, the children will buy gifts for their siblings and groceries for their families. Alvin police officers, sheriff’s department officers and volunteers shop with the kids, bonding with them as they walk down the aisles.

Sometimes, the child has picked out more than their allotted money and the officers pitch in the difference.

Donated money is divided up and the volunteer carries the cash with him or her so that each child can have $125 to spend when they get to the specially designated register to pay.

Wal Mart does not charge taxes on the items, and those children who were chosen to buy groceries have $125 to spend in the food section as well.

It will take $16,500 to provide the money for the Blue Santa program this year.

Stanaland can tell story after story of not only happy children, but also the reactions of the adults paired up with the children.

One officer from the Alvin Police Department had been selected for the program as a child.

He is now a participant in helping the kids shop, because he knows what it meant to him, she said.

One local businessman was matched with a youngster in 2019 and they kept in touch after the Blue Santa shopping event.

The student is now applying for a job and asked the businessman if he could use him as a reference. The businessman stepped up and helped him.

Each child wears a name tag so that everyone knows they are participants in the program.

This year, the big day for Blue Santa will be Dec. 16, and Stanaland is already hard at work collecting money, approaching groups for donations and encouraging the public to call her with their donations. She can be reached at 832-493-2955.

Story after story about what the children do and say, and their generosity when they have so little, are hard to listen to.

One volunteer reported to her that the child she was paired with used all his money to buy gifts for his siblings, then gave them to his grandmother to wrap and tell the other children she had purchased them for the family.

One youngster was determined to get something for each of his siblings and got potato chips in a variety of flavors. When his sister picked him up after the event was over, she asked him why he had bought so many different types of chips.

He told her that he wanted each child to have their own bag for Christmas.

As she kicks off this year’s fund raising campaign, Stanaland says she hopes that donors will understand how important this project is to not only the children, but the volunteers as well.

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