Operation Blue Santa is underway and Mr. and Mrs. Blue Santa paid a visit to a local jewelry store Dec. 5 to help raise awareness.
Blue Santa, a charitable program started by two Austin Police officers 41 years ago, provides toys, food and a Christmas meal to families in need.
"Two police officers on the East side in the holiday season saw a family that had nothing," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. "So these two officers took it upon themselves to collect some money from their shift mates [and buy] all kinds of toys. It went from one family and two officers out of the trunk of a police car to 5,000 families and 15,000 people, so we're spreading a lot of joy and hope."
Russell Korman Jewelry on Burnet Road hosted Acevedo, Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and Mr. and Mrs. Blue Santa Dec. 5. The store is offering 10 percent off purchases made by customers t bring in a donation.
"We have a love for children's charities," Hank Koreman, brother of Russell Korman, said. "We're involved in quite a few [charities] and we love our police department so it was kind of natural to get involved."
The charity will mean even more this year for Austin Police Department because it's a way to maintain a connection with the community during times of tension after the deaths of black males in other cities at the hands of police officers.
"When you look around the country as it relates to law enforcement, it's challenging times," Acevedo said. "A lot of heated debates and discussions are going on and it's really an opportunity for us in Austin to build those bonds of trust, mutual respect and cooperation and planting seeds for the future."
The donations will be delivered to families Dec. 20. Families in need can apply every year to be a part of Blue Santa. The application period ended at noon Dec. 5.