KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
December 7, 2022
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Katy ISD Police Department’s Santa Cops program continues to grow in it’s 20th year. This year the program will provide Christmas gifts to over 1,250 Katy students.
Left to right: Deputy Chief Kevin Tabor, Liz Loocke, and Katy ISD Police Chief Henry Gaw talk about Santa Cops.
Santa Cops Program Continues to Grow
For 20 years, Katy ISD police officers have delivered holiday cheer to many children in the community. The Santa Cops program has grown from bringing gifts and cheer to 30 students in 2002 to over 1,250 students this year. That brings Christmas to 654 Katy families.
Katy ISD Police Chief Henry Gaw continues be wowed by this program in his third year overseeing the department. He came from Houston Police Department, that also had a way to give back to students.
“Houston Police Department has a program where the officers find the students, but this is so organized,” says Chief Gaw. “It’s a labor we love and makes us speechless to deliver the gifts.”
Selected families will start picking up the gifts this evening. Some families don’t have a means to pick up gifts. Those gifts will be delivered to the school counselors who will ensure their delivery.
Toys fill the Katy ISD Police Station.
Each Child Receives $100 Worth of Toys
School counselors submitted students' names to receive the donations. Families were assigned a number for picking up the wrapped toys, valued at $100 per child. They get a sense for numbers based on the free and reduced lunch program.
The Department reaches out to Katy ISD counselors each October to start finalizing numbers and assessing the need.
“We can’t do this without the counselors,” says Liz Loocke, police services specialist. “This is to help the parents, so we aren’t there to see them unwrap the presents.”
As the gifts are bagged prior to dropping off, they don’t always know the gifts but . This year's donations filled the entire station. Chief Gaw joked that they needed a new station just to handle Santa Cops.
“For those of us who have been here for the entirety of the program it hits home,” says Deputy Chief Kevin Tabor. “We have seen the need and the condition these kids live in. The first year we saw a home with no Christmas tree and we came back to the station and brought them our tree.”
Sponsors Deliver Even Through Economic Hardships
The Department was concerned over how the economic struggles would impact the program this year.
“We were shocked with the sponsors this year,” says Deputy Chief Tabor. “We expected to struggle with economy, but they came through big time.”
Sponsors range from Landrys, First United Methodist Church of Katy, local businesses, student groups, and individuals. Some student groups that donated a significant amount were the Woodcreek Jr High Athletics, Adams Junior High Athletic Department and the Katy High School Football Team.
Students Learn to Give
“A hidden benefit that often goes unnoticed is how students are involved in helping these students in need,” says Deputy Chief Tabor. “We’ve seen sponsors bring in their children to help drop off gifts and to teach them about giving.”
“In many cases this becomes a family affair,” says Loocke, who had her two 11-year old granddaughters and two 8-year-old grandsons helping this past weekend to sort and bag gifts. “It teaches them to give back.”
This is a program that often doesn’t receive any thanks for their efforts, yet some families do come up and deliver baked goods and treats to give thanks.
“in the past a lot of schools south of the freeway didn’t have a need, but that has changed,” says Loocke. “We’ve had more in that area then ever before. Many Katy families are struggling.”
As Katy ISD continues to grow, the Katy ISD Police Department continues foresee the continued need and growth of Santa Cops.