AUSTIN (KXAN) — Donations for the Austin Police’s Operation Blue Santa are coming in slow this year, that’s according to Blue Santa President Margarine Beaman.

“I would say we’re expecting a lot to come or we won’t be able to meet our needs,” she said.

The nearly 50-year-old operation started out in 1972 with two Austin Police officers helping 20 families in need. Since then, the operation has grown to help nearly 8,000. Beaman says they will deliver to around 5,000 families and thousands of others have been adopted.

“We count on the community more than 100%,” Beaman said. “Because if we didn’t have the community, we didn’t have the different functions in the community, and people help us collect the toys, and help us on delivery day it would never happen.”

They need volunteers to help distribute the toys and food as well as people who can help sort, wrap and build boxes with gifts. They’re looking for small groups of no more than 25 people to work in the Blue Santa warehouse.

Business owners can also get involved by setting up a donation bin inside their businesses to collect toys.

“We put out our toy boxes in the different businesses and different stores and then they collect from there,” Beaman said. “We ask people that this year since we’re very short-handed and volunteers are not as plentiful because of the pandemic still being here is that to bring them to the fire stations; then from the fire stations we will pick them up from there.”

Normally, Operation Blue Santa receives a huge chunk of its donations during the annual Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade, but this year, because of COVID-19, the parade was not held. Instead, Chuy’s collected toys at its restaurant throughout the month of November.

Beaman says they need all sorts of toy donations, but they often see a need for two categories — infants to two-year-olds and eight to 14-year-olds.

If you would like to donate some toys — they can be dropped off at a fire station, a local business participating or at APD’s warehouse. Those who would like to help distribute toys can sign up.

Distribution will take place on Saturday, December 18 starting at 8 a.m.