Santa’s helpers: Cops collect toys for needy children

By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer

Portales’ police will be protecting and serving this Christmas holiday, but they’ll also be making hundreds of area children smile on Christmas morning.

The Portales Police Department is once again providing toys and Christmas presents for needy Portales children and families through Operation: Santa Cop.

Through the program, the Portales Police accept toys and money donations from area businesses and private citizens and deliver toys to targeted families over the holidays.

Capt. Lonnie Berry says the annual program not only benefits parents and children, but also helps the employees who take part.

“It really makes (our officers) feel good. And I see those guys just going so much more above and beyond to make sure things happen. It’s a great time of the year,” Berry said. “We get the opportunity to see people in a different light. And they see us in a different light too.”

Berry said the program originated about eight years ago, when he went to the Portales Lion’s Club and told them about the problem.

“I went to my buddies at the Lion’s Club and said, ‘Look, this is a problem, can we do something about it?’ And they kicked in that first year, and it’s happened every year (since).”

In addition to the Lion’s Club, Berry said that Wal-Mart, Mutual Insurance and Comcast Cable also help in the yearly effort.

In the first three days of toy shopping for needy kids, Berry says they have spent more than $2,100 — and they’re not done yet.

“We did it as kind of a gap for the kiddos that were missed by other programs,” Berry said. “We found that several of the programs were geared toward the younger kids. We would be delivering presents for other programs and they’d be for grade-school kids, but there would be teenagers in the house. And we felt like Christmas is Christmas. If you are 15 or 16 years old, they’re really happy to see their little brothers and sisters get presents, but we would walk out of there feeling like there was something missing, because those kids weren’t getting things as well.”

Dana Pergeson works at the Police Department and helps with the annual effort.

“It gives us a great feeling to be able to help the children who need it,” Pergeson said. “We enjoy every year getting in here and helping get a lot of this done so we can get it out before Christmas.”

Berry said the Police Department was able to gather toys for about 450 kids last year, and he expects to pass that number this Christmas.

“Our goal is to get kids of all ages (gifts),” Berry said. “We’re going to make sure that every kid in the house is going to get something.”

“I know that the officers have a real joyous feeling and I’m sure it gives them a great feeling to make a child extra happy for Christmas,” Pergeson said.

Gift and money donations will be accepted through Christmas at the Portales Police Department.

“We’ve had people walking in the door almost every day either dropping toys off or dropping donations off,” Berry said.