LITTLE VALLEY Jolly Old St. Nick made an early visit to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office to meet with the Santa Sheriff's Program Director Deputy Brian Keis to discuss the growing need for area families in the 2012 giving season. He was pleased to find that efforts have been ongoing this year with monthly raffle baskets and that letters will be going out to area businesses seeking local support through monetary donations. These donations will help the program purchase gifts for families in the community.
The Santa Sheriff's Program, modeled after a similar initiative in Texas, began in 2004 and has been steadily growing. Partnering agencies and schools raise funds and refer less fortunate Cattaraugus County families to the program. Gifts are purchased at area businesses. Youth and volunteers from area schools and other county agencies wrap the gifts and package them for delivery.
In 2004, the goal had been to serve five families; the program grew to 26 families in 2010 and 2011, providing gifts for a total of 117 men, women, and children. These families were provided with complete Christmas dinners in addition to gifts, along with dry goods donated through the efforts of the staff and students of the Salamanca Middle School. The program hopes to raise the funds to provide Christmas to 40 families this year.
As in the past years, the Sheriff's Office has also pledged funding to the program through a donation from the Employee's Association and the Supervisor Units, as well as receiving donations from the CSEA Supervisory Unit. Sheriff's Deputy Brian Keis, Program Director, sees the Santa's Sheriff's Program as "a way for (officers) to give back to the community." Fundraising efforts continue to grow each year adding new partners.
While the program is designed to provide Christmas gifts for area families, it also offers participants lessons in cooperation, volunteering, and caring for others.
This year the program is looking to raise nearly $10,000 so that the needs of area families can be met. Individuals interested in donating to this project may contact Sheriff Timothy Whitecomb at 938-9191 ext. 2247 or Deputy Brian Keis at 938-9191 ext. 2899. Contributions can be made payable to the CCSO Santa Sheriff's Fund, c/o Deputy Brain Keis, Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office, 301 Court St., Little Valley 14755.