While much of McLennan County is preparing for the holiday season, more than 30 Robinson families will be getting a little extra help this year thanks to Blue Santa.

Late last month, the Robinson Police Department adorned the Christmas tree in the lobby of City Hall with 104 ornaments representing 104 children in need of Christmas gifts. With help from community donations based on the ornaments, police employees organized presents selected from children’s wish lists Thursday, ahead of distribution scheduled for Friday.

“It is the season of giving, and the expressions on kids’ faces is the number one priority,” Robinson Police Chief Phillip Prasifka said. “To see those cheerful expressions and know that everyone has something under the tree, it is great that the community and staff here is working together to help make that possible.”

The program has been up and running almost 10 years with support from local residents, churches, schools and businesses that provide gifts for children and families in need. Last year, the program helped 158 children from 51 families, making it the largest in the Robinson program’s history.

“This year, we were mentally capping applications at 100, but luckily we didn’t have many more who applied like last year so we didn’t have to turn anyone away,” said Jessica Casper, the Robinson senior dispatcher who coordinates the Blue Santa program.

“Last year was completely overwhelming with the need that we saw, but this year, it didn’t seem like the need was as great,” Robinson police Officer Chris Lopez said.

Lopez, who serves as Robinson’s crime prevention officer, dispatch and evidence technician Gloria Alvarez and Casper helped arrange the program this year. Families seeking assistance had children ranging from newborns to age 18.

“I like doing this for the kids,” Alvarez said. “My kids get a lot of stuff for Christmas, so I want to make sure other kids get as much and more for their Christmas.”

The Robinson Chamber of Commerce also partnered with the police department to encourage donations.

“Christmas is awesome and it should be awesome for everybody, so that is why this is so important to our community,” Lopez said. “Everyone should get to experience that, despite their situation.”

Families are scheduled to pick up their holiday donations Friday. Even though this year’s distribution will be smaller than last year, the event is just as meaningful, Casper said.

“To me, this brings the community together,” she said. “This really shows that our community is here, we love our town and our community can help.”

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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