When Lathrop Police Community Resource Officer Jefferson Dominguez first participated in what is now the Lathrop Police Blue Santa event at Target three years ago, he noticed that the underprivileged children that were selected to privately shop at the store for Christmas gifts were getting something he wouldn’t have expected.
So, when he took over the program the following year, Dominguez made sure that the San Joaquin County Deputy Sheriff’s Association – who along with Target, the Lathrop Sunrise Rotary and the Second Harvest Food Bank sponsor the annual event for local families and their children – had toiletry kits ready for every child before they stepped into the store.
“We wanted to make sure that they were able to get a Christmas gift like a toy – something that was special to them,” Dominguez said. “This is about seeing the smile on the faces of these children when they get to pick out something and have a special Christmas that they wouldn’t otherwise get, and we wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to worry about something like a toothbrush or shampoo.
“This is about bringing joy to these kids, and we wanted to do everything we could to make that the focus.”
On Wednesday morning, with a volunteer team that included nearly 40 deputies and a host of community leaders, the event brought Christmas home to 31 kids and 21 families that were hand-picked to participate in the event that was initially made possible by a grant from the Target Corporation.
Each of the participants, Dominguez said, are nominated by the School Resource Officers that work in area schools based off of recommendations from teachers and staff, and Dominguez then goes out and meets with each of the families to ensure that only those who have the greatest need are the ones being helped.
Those that make it through the screening process were then invited to the Lathrop Target store at 6 a.m. on Wednesday where they were taken through the store with deputies to pick out the perfect Christmas gift, while also being sent home with turkey and ham dinners that will allow for a full family meal that might not otherwise be possible.
“Between 30 and 40 percent of the children that are nominated are homeless, and the rest have parents that work but don’t have the money necessary to buy things like gifts,” Dominguez said. “We wanted to change that, and after a couple of years of doing this you see how big of an impact this can have on people in the community.
“You see moms and dads literally crying when they see the joy on the faces of their child, and that’s what we wanted to have happen – those of us in law enforcement make a great salary serving the community, and this is a chance to give back to the people that we serve.
“It’s truly a wonderful thing.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.