The call went out on Tuesday, Nov. 12: Houston Blue Santa needed help. The program, founded in 1984, is run by Houston Police Department office, and delivers Christmas toys and gifts to needy families. Officer Georganna Davis, one of the HPD officers who works with us at IWA and is known for her weekly gifts of fruit, her hearty greetings and her dedication to the safety of our students, coordinates the Blue Santa program.
The volunteer service project was set for the next day, Saturday, Nov. 16. Campus minister Ana Paula Panzarini felt the project was an excellent way for students and their families to live the message from Pope Francis, that we be a hope and consolation to our brothers and sisters who live in poverty. The pope's letter on the subject coincidentally came out the same weekend as the Blue Santa volunteer project.
The service day was a success. IWA families arrived at HPD's location on Riesner Street ready to work.
"We helped put gifts together in big Blue Santa bags which would then be distributed by the officers to children across the city," said Ms. Panzarini. "We made more than 75 bags in the morning we were there."
For the student volunteers, helping Blue Santa was an opportunity for both fellowship and seeing how their work could make a difference in others' lives.
"The best thing about volunteering for Blue Santa this year was the teamwork and friendship building that I had with my peers," said Ruth Linbeck '21. "I had a really fun time and I hope we that we can do this again next year!"
Her fellow student volunteers shared similar thoughts.
"There was this feeling of happiness," said Sarah Edwards '23. "It was nice to know that we were packing toys for kids so they could be happy during the Christmas holiday."
Sofia Martinez '21 picked up on the theme of happiness, too.
"I loved bringing joy to faces as we worked to make packages for the less fortunate," she said.
Ms. Panzarini felt working with Blue Santa was not only fun, but also underscored Pope Francis' message.
"During his Mass for the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that ‘the poor lead us straight to God' and that they 'facilitate our access to heaven'" she explained. "He called them 'the treasure of the Church.' That's a powerful message to send to our students. And this service project gave them a tangible feeling of how we are called to women of service to others."