As the colder weather begins to roll in, so does the holiday spirit and the season of giving — at least at the Lea County Sheriff’s Office.
Seven years ago, the LCSO created a “Santa Program” after it was brought to their attention that a family wouldn’t be having a Christmas.
“We had a family that came to our attention who needed assistance and we ended up helping them on a service call,” LCSO Chief Deputy Fernando Jimenez said. “Myself and Sheriff Ackerman were approached by deputies who said ‘hey, I finished helping out a family, they had some issues and they’re not going to have a Christmas.’ December 23 of that year, seven years ago, we took a moment and tried to think of a way we could get in contact with some people to see if they could help us out.
“They had four children and we looked at each other and we talked to that shift, and a couple of other deputies, and came together within an hour or two. We opened up our pocket books, went shopping, bought a tree, bought gifts for all of the kids and delivered everything to them. It was good to see the kid’s and parent’s expressions knowing that their kids were going to get a Christmas.”
Jimenez told the News-Sun they have helped roughly 300 children throughout Lea County since the creation of the program — and this year, they are adding a collector’s Santa patch for the department, with proceeds from the sales going to help those children in need.
This year the LCSO has chosen about three dozen children in Lea County who are in need, based on referrals to, or direct contact with, deputies. Those children will have a Christmas like no other, Jimenez said.
“We select about 30 to 40 children for the program and try to give them a Christmas their family can’t afford and that they’ll never forget,” Jimenez said. “We pick the children up from the residence and they get to sit in the front seat (of a LSCO vehicle). Each kid, if it’s say a family of three or four, we send four deputies there and each child is in a vehicle, in the front seat with the deputy and they ride to the office. They get to talk on the radio, they get to be a deputy for the day.
“We do small activities with the kids at the office, and then we have a Santa who flies in on a helicopter.”
The children get to visit with Santa and from there ride in a parade from Lovington to Hobbs. Once they arrive in Hobbs the children are taken to Brown’s Shoe Fit and get to select any pair of shoes they want.
After the kids get their new shoes they ride to Home Depot where deputies do a project with the kids and then take them to Walmart, said Jimenez.
“We take these kids on a shopping spree at Walmart and spend quite a bit on each child,” Jimenez explained. “Each child has a selected amount, and once we’re done there at Walmart we go to Big Cheese Pizza. The kids get to eat and play games with their assigned deputy and once we are done there we take them home.”
The program doesn’t stop at just helping one or two children in a family. The LCSO makes sure to help all children, 18 and under, in the family. If a child is too young to go with deputies, they are not left out. They still get the same perks the other kids, they just don’t get to leave the home and ride with deputies.
Jimenez told the News-Sun in past years, donations for the program came strictly from sponsors, but this year in combination with what is given from sponsors, the LCSO has created the Santa patch.
“All of the funds that we get from the patches, 100 percent goes back to the community,” said Jimenez.
The creation of the collector’s patches for the LCSO began in 2019 with an Autism Awareness patch, and later progressed to supporting other causes such as breast cancer awareness and domestic violence awareness.
After the creation of those patches, Jimenez said the LCSO wanted to do something a bit different and decided put out a combined patch showing support for both breast cancer and domestic violence during October.
“We wanted to be the first to put out a collective patch that nobody else has put out,” Jimenez said. “We did a domestic violence and a breast cancer patch.”
Administrative secretary Connie Banderas at 575-396-8200; records clerk Aileen Vizcarra at 575-396-8294; or chief deputy Fernando Jimenez at 575-396-8204 may be contacted by those who wish to donate, or know a family in need.