Santas in Blue (SIB) will return to Barksdale Dec. 19, 2020, at the Bossier Civic Center, Bossier City, La., with a COVID-19-safe twist.
SIB is an event backed by the Barksdale Air Force Base Top 3 organization, partnered with Shreveport and Bossier City’s Department of Child & Family Services for over 20-plus years to spread the holiday spirit to children in foster care in the local parishes of Northwest Louisiana.
Due to the increase in COVID restrictions set by the governor, the event will no longer be held inside this year. Instead, the event will be utilizing the Civic Center facility as a staging area and volunteers will be having a drive by Santa gift presentation to the children.
This will reduce the contact volunteers will have with the children and families which will ensure safety for all. SIB will have a food preparation team to box up the food that is donated and deliver it to the vehicles as they arrive. All of this wouldn’t be possible without volunteers from Barksdale.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of the Santas in Blue once I realized the impact it had on the community and young children in foster care it reached.” said Master Sgt. Austin S. Welch, chairwoman for 2020 SIB committee. “I was a foster parent in my early twenties so I understand some of the emotional troubles that some of the foster children face day to day. Santas in Blue gives them something to look forward to.”
Local children’s agencies ask their children to submit a “wish list” of gifts they would like to receive. A list is compiled with the names of the children, ages, gender and their wishes (cost within reason). With donations from the local community, the organization will ensure each child receives a gift.
“For me, the best part of the holidays isn’t getting gifts, but seeing the faces of those that receive them,” Welch said. “I am glad we will be able to bring smiles to the children that we are sponsoring.”
The SIB committee asks for representatives in each group/squadron at Barksdale and these point of contacts request donations to aid in providing the gifts for the foster children at the event. Airmen can also volunteer to help prepare for the event as well.
“In the past, I have worked with SIB by wrapping the presents my unit had purchased for the children we were sponsoring,” Welch said. “It is still amazing knowing that, by partnering with the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services, we are able to bring holiday cheer to the kids.”
In order for SIB to happen, the volunteers request assistance from the local community businesses and organizations by donating their time or resources to this program. So far over 20+ local businesses have agreed to donate food and/or money to the event. The event will be highlighting the donors throughout the event during activities and gift presentations, who, through their generous donations, helped make this event a success.
“I loved seeing all of the children receive gifts, eat pizza and take pictures with Santa.” Westley said. “That’s why I wanted to be a part of this wonderful opportunity again, anytime that I can give back to foster children is a blessing.”
This year 44 volunteers will be participating in an event to provide Christmas joy for over 194 foster children from the Barksdale community.