BROWNSVILLE — Santa Claus doesn’t always wear red or ride in a sleigh.
Starting this morning, brown-clad deputies with badges will be delivering toys in patrol vehicles to children in the Southmost area and in Cameron Park during the next two days.
“A lot of people have little children and they take care of them, but there’s some that don’t have anything so we try to help as many as we possibly can,” Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said from the department’s briefing room, flanked by stacks of brightly colored presents.
This year, through donations from the public and local businesses, the sheriff’s office spent $2,500 purchasing 1,000 toys that will impact an estimated 800 people in Cameron County.
On Thursday, deputies visited children in Harlingen, where school has ended for the holidays. In Brownsville, the school holiday starts today.
“I also wanted to point out that we have 20 bags of groceries that people will deliver to needy people,” Lucio said. “There will be a turkey in each bag. And then we have a loaf of bread, potatoes and some canned goods.”
An anonymous Brownsville resident purchased the turkeys, Lucio said, thanking that person for the kind gesture.
“Sometimes people don’t have too much to eat, and hopefully stuff like this will make their day a little bit easier and happier for them and the rest of the family,” Lucio said.
The presents were wrapped by three female inmates who faced minor charges and had good behavior. Lucio said he allowed them to pick out a couple presents for their children, which will be delivered to their homes for Christmas.
“They help us out a lot,” Lucio said. “They do all the wrapping, and we really appreciate it.”
Lucio said deputies look forward to delivering the gifts every year because of the response they get when they arrive with the gifts.
“They expect us to go by there every year and they love it … we go by there and make these kids happy,” Lucio said.
In a special treat, the sheriff’s department has 15 to 20 abandoned bicycles that had not been claimed for a few years.
“We will give them some good bikes. We make sure that they are in running condition and that the tires are OK so we don’t have any problems,” Lucio said. “If you don’t have a bike and somebody gives a bicycle, that is the greatest thing, I can tell you that from personal experience.”
The effort, which is in its 20th year, is a way the sheriff’s department can make Christmas a little better for people who are struggling and solidify community relations.
“We always feel that we have to be part of the community. We are here to protect it. We are here to help it,” Lucio said. “We want to make sure that people don’t look at officers only when they really need them, we want to make sure the kids know that we’re here to help them and that we’re their friends.”