A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 28, 2006
Blue Santa

“Blue Santas” are police officers who play Santa Claus for Christmas. The program started in 1976 with the San Antonio Police Department, but other Texas cities also have their own “Blue Santas.” A “Brown Santa” program began in the Traves County Sheriff’s Office in the 1980s.
SAPD Blue Santa Program
THE BLUE SANTA PROGRAM began in San Antonio in 1976 when officers from the Community Relations Unit adopted needy families at Christmas time. The officers provided these families with groceries for Christmas dinner and presents for their children. These police officers, wearing their blue uniforms, became known as “Blue Santas”.

In 1986 the Blue Santa Program became an official project of SAPD. This program works by officers from throughout the city identifying needy families in their patrol districts. The officers submit this information to Community Services officers for processing. Community Services officers act as a collecting point for donations of money, food and toys. The cash donations are used to purchase additional toys and food items that may be needed.
This year, SAPD officers and volunteers will assemble the gifts, wrap and label them, and make sure the appropriate gift is delivered to each child on the Blue Santa list. Officers who have submitted nominations of needy children deliver the packages to the families. Whenever possible, an officer dressed in the “Blue Santa” costume accompanies the police officers on their deliveries.

The success of the Blue Santa Program depends on the generous contributions from local businesses, civic organizations, and countless San Antonio residents. Last year (2005), the Blue Santa Program assisted 3,822 families and provide toys for 11,813 children.
New Braunfels (TX) Police Department
Blue Santa
Reaching out to children in need
Every Christmas Eve you will find Santa making visits througout our city wearing a blue uniform and driving a police cruiser. For many needy children in New Braunfels, the visit they get from the officers and staff at the police department on Christmas Eve makes a big difference for them on Christmas Day. Our officers deliver hundreds of gifts in bright holiday wrappings and ribbons to needy families. The gifts vary from items of basic essentials to toys and bicycles.
Houston Police Officers’ Union
The Blue Santa Formula is Simple
By Tom Kennedy
$1 Per Payroll for 1 Year Helps 1 Needy Child at Christmas and Raises HPD’s Image and Morale for an Even Longer Period
Twas the Christmas season of 1984 when HPD officers arrested a father from the East End on charges of shoplifting some children’ underwear.

On the way to jail the father explained that he just wanted his young kids to have some underwear before Christmas. The officers concluded he was jobless and down on his luck enough that it was highly unlikely Santa Claus would show up at his modest home.

1,500+ Blue Santas
They did a background check, told his wife he was in jail and took up a collection from their fellow officers to provide food, some toys and - yes - some new underwear for the young family.

The spirit of giving enveloped the guys involved. They went to 61 Riesner and collected enough money to provide similar help for 12 more families.

Thus, the HPD Blue Santa program was born.

Today, there are more than 1,500 Houston police officers that fit the definition of Blue Santa. The number is growing.

The Blue Santa network stretches to the far reaches of every poor neighborhood and police beat in Space City.

The program simply brings out the best of those individuals who feel called to become a police officer.

“The most rewarding part of the program is being able to help the kids and being able to give them gifts,” Sgt. Mark Newcomb of Eastside Patrol. “These are kids not normally getting gifts. You find them on your own through referrals, accident scenes and calls for service - like on the scene of a shooting, a stabbing or a family disturbance.”

Newcomb is one of a number of officers who are very active in the program. He has experiences going back the better part of 10 years.

He remembers the husband jailed before Christmas for beating his wife. “We knew they (the kids) weren’t going to have much for Christmas. We ended up adopting them.”

During another year, a live-in boyfriend shot the mother of four children, aged 1 to 5. “They weren’t getting anything,” the sergeant recalled. “It was two days before Christmas. We had to really scramble.”

More well-to-do kids learn about Blue Santa from a different perspective - the giving perspective.

Newcomb has three stepchildren - boys 16 and 14 and a girl 10. “We get out on Christmas Eve and deliver the presents,” he said. “It’ really an experience for them because they get to see how fortunate they are and that some kids just don’t have anything.”

Payroll Deductions
Officer Freddie Joe Pyland, a community service officer at Southeast, has been the primary overseer of the Blue Santa program since 1997, taking the baton from Alan Watson, who had been in charge for about 10 years.

Pyland and the Blue Santa Board of Directors have kept the program’ formula simple and direct.

“We take in $100,000 a year through officers’ donations,” Pyland explained. “This comes primarily through payroll deductions and some from the Combined Municipal Campaign.

“Over the year if an officer gives $1 per paycheck he or she is able to adopt one child. This means if you give $30 a paycheck you can adopt 30 kids if you want to.

“There are 264 officers who give at least $5 per check, which means they can sponsor at least five children this season.”

These numbers reflect the fact that the program has quadrupled in the last five or six years.

“This means we are the most successful of the police-type charities in Houston,” Pyland said. “We took in more money than the other (police charity) groups totaled and they had to rely on the Combined Municipal Campaign.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Tuesday, November 28, 2006 • Permalink

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