What started out as Brown Santa delivering Christmas gifts to local children has turned into an effort that extends through the winter months and beyond.
The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office Brown Santa program, along with the Alpine Police Department Blue Santa effort, has turned into the Law Enforcement Toy Drive.
And through the toy drives, officers saw seniors who struggled to stay warm during the winter.
“We saw that in the cold months, there were some who weren’t able to pay their gas bills, propane bills, or electric bills,” said Sheriff Ronny Dodson. “So we checked with the gas and propane companies, and they knew who the needy were in West Texas. At the city gas department, the ladies who work there know who are in real need, and we worked with them with their heating bills.”
The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t hand out any money, but rather pays directly to the agency, company, landlord, or financial institution. No one gets cash.
For the toy drive, the law enforcement entities rely on teachers and individuals who can identify need.
“We don’t drive up and down the streets and give out toys to everyone as in years past. In the beginning, there were people who tried to take advantage,” said Dodson.
He stressed that for the most part, there wasn’t a huge amount of poverty in Alpine, and many church groups and other organizations also helped those in need.
Said Dodson, “Right now, we’re the middle man in trying to find needy families. We some have individuals who want to personally give to folks who are really in need. We’re helping people find people.”
He added that pride was a factor, and most won’t ask for help.
“It may be a grandma raising her grand kids, and she doesn’t have anything, and grandmas like presents, too. We would really like them to come out here or call us, and we can give them presents for younger kids, and the older folks who are in need,” said Dodson.
The Sheriff’s Office also uses Brown Santa donation money to provide Christmas dinner for needy families in Marathon.
The Sheriff’s Office distributes gifts in both Alpine and Marathon, and counts on donations from the public.
To donate toys, take new, unwrapped gifts to the Sheriff’s Office before Dec. 23. To donate money, take it to the Sheriff’s Office or the Alpine Community Credit Union. At the credit union, tell them to put the money in the Brown Santa program, which includes heating and other assistance to the needy.