By Kim Hilsenbeck
For seven-year-old Kaylee Gonzalez, Christmas shopping this year was way different. She spent several hours with Buda’s Animal Control Officer Jennifer Hall. They shopped together as part of the Buda PD Blue Santa program.
According to Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd, the Blue Santa program this year raised the most money since its inception four years ago.
“We probably are going to have more than $3,000,” he said while shopping with nine-year-old London, a fourth grader at Buda Elementary.
Kidd said the department took 13 children shopping this year, each with a budget of $150, thanks to the generosity of donors including many members of the Buda Chamber of Commerce.
“We had the largest single donation this year,” Kidd said. “Art Fonseca of Texas Home Realty donated $2,000.”
Buda Chamber of Commerce Executive Director J.R. Gonzales said many chamber members were more than happy to participate in the Blue Santa program and give back to the community.
“Our perspective is, let the cops do what they do best and let us business owners do what we do best and that’s raise a little money to help the community,” he siad.
Gonzales added that Fonseca’s donation was two-fold because he combined it with a coat drive.
“He told chamber members that for every coat donated, he would give $10 to Blue Santa,” he said.
The total number of coats given allowed him to donate the $2,000.
Kidd said Blue Santa, which has expanded into more of a year round community outreach program, will expand to help middle school students who may need a little extra help in the coming year.
“Our officers will have lunch with a student and talk, then give him or her a gift card,” he said.
At what he called a pivotal time in a teenager’s life, he said forming a positive relationship with a police officer is important.
Officer Luke Lysek said it means a lot to him to be part of Blue Santa.
“Being able to take the time and … hang out and eat with the kiddos, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “And they get to see we’re actually people.”