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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Santa Cops program delivers 1,600 holiday gifts to families in need

Santa Cops program delivers 1,600 holiday gifts to families in need

In the training room of the Westminster Police Department, a gathering of volunteers, City employees, police officers, and elected officials are busy wrapping hundreds of donated gifts spread out wall-to-wall.

Holiday movies are playing on the monitors throughout the room, but most people are busy figuring out the best way to smash down a puffer jacket or conceal a basketball with wrapping paper.

Jana Kretzel, a Westminster Police Citizen Academy alumni board member who has volunteered with the Santa Cops event for over 12 years, knows all the hard work will be worth it come Christmas Day.

“We don’t put anything in boxes or bags,” Kretzel said. “We wrap everything separately so the kids have several things to open. There’s a lot of people in the city who have more than what they need, and there are people in the city who are in need, so it’s a great time to share what you can with people who need it.”

Each year, people throughout Westminster donate money and gifts to ensure that local families have presents to open over the holidays. The families are nominated by police officers, code enforcement professionals, or other City staff that interact directly with residents.

Investigator Cheri Spottke said police officers work with the nominated families to ensure kids not only get what they need but also some fun gifts on their wishlist.

“We work with those families and purchase a package for them. That includes a warm winter jacket, shoes, and age-specific toys to be delivered before Christmas eve,” she said. “I was up late last night shopping for some last-minute needs. It’s important for us to get what the kids are asking for, and obviously, we can’t get everything they ask for, but it’s important to us. I searched Target for hours for a little Hulk figurine, and it made me so happy knowing that this little boy was going to get exactly what he wanted for Christmas.”

Deputy Police Chief Dean Villano has participated in Santa Cops almost every year since he started with the department 31 years ago. He said the growth of the event has been impressive.

“It went from maybe three or four families to many more as the years progressed. As the population of Westminster increased, so did the need for these families,” he said. “It’s so well-received. Our graveyard shift teams are the ones that deliver, and they look forward to it. Just the amount of stuff, the amount of families – it’s satisfying to help anybody in need.”

Interim Chief of Police Norm Haubert has been participating in Santa Cops since the annual event first started.

“I’ve been doing this since its inception, either delivering gifts on graveyard shifts or coming in and wrapping,” he said. “Delivering the gifts is pure joy. Seeing the kids light up seeing you in uniform delivering gifts, it’s not exactly Santa Claus, but it’s a feeling you never forget, seeing the joy from the family and the kids knowing that there will be presents to open on Christmas.”

This time around, Haubert is focused on wrapping some of the more oddly shaped presents donated to the families.

“The trickiest item I have on my pile right now – and I’ll probably wrap them together – is tennis shoes,” he said. “I saw a couple of creative ways to wrap a basketball earlier, and the one I really don’t want to wrap is a skateboard. Good luck to whoever wraps that one, I’ll stick to the tennis shoes.”

In all, program participants wrapped over 1,600 gifts this year. Officers delivered the gifts to 110 children ahead of Christmas.

Officers with the Westminster Police Department deliver gifts as part of the Santa Cops program.Officers with the Westminster Police Department deliver gifts as part of the Santa Cops program.

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