AUSTIN (KXAN) — For 45 years, Margarine Beaman has been part of Austin Police Operation Blue Santa. As board president, she oversees a busy warehouse — a workshop, of sorts.
But this year is different.
“I think this is the lowest we’ve seen our donations coming in,” she said.
Austin Police said both toy and monetary donations are down.
“I think it’s because of the economy and inflation. Everything is making a big difference on that,” Beaman said.
Those are some of the reasons why Chuy’s restaurants canceled their Children Giving to Children Parade, along with staff challenges.
“With staffing the way it is in the restaurant industry post-pandemic, it’s just almost impossible for us to be able to execute that event,” said spokesperson Ashley Ingle.
She said the parade typically brings in 12,000 gifts or more.
“It’s thousands of Chuy’s volunteers, and we bus all of our locations in from around the state to Austin,” she explained.
Ingle said pandemic health and safety are continued concerns, too.
“We just wanted to make sure we could execute an event. And if we couldn’t do it to the levels that we were able to do it before it just we had to pivot and make some other decisions,” she said.
So, Ingle said they focused on driving donations to their Fun Run at the Trail of Lights, as well as in-stores and online.
“People who were able to place an online order and just add $1 to their order,” she explained.
She said they collected 3,000 toys and $150,000.
Beaman said the fact Blue Santa accepts donations throughout the year has helped push them further toward their holiday goals, but there’s still a gap this year.
Austin Police said there’s been a 50% increase in families that need help — nearly 2,000.
“I think it was because a lot of people lost their jobs. And they want to serve the children, and I don’t blame them,” Beaman said.
Austin Police said typically, around 80% of families are “adopted,” meaning their gifts are sponsored by individuals, families or businesses. This year, though, only 17% have been adopted or just 320 families.
Beaman said they’re dropping off gifts to families this Saturday, but there’s still time to help the 1,400 families that don’t have gifts assigned, yet.
“We’re looking for businesses and corporations and individuals and families to adopt those,” she said. “That’s critical.”
You can sign up to adopt a family here. They’re also looking for volunteers for Saturday. Beaman said you don’t have to sign up, just show up at one of the distribution centers: