NHS members volunteer at Brown Santa

NHS members volunteer at Brown Santa

Linnea Kennedy and Ashley Chase

Last week members of NHS participated in an event called Operation Brown Santa.

“It’s an organization through the Travis County Sheriff’s Department,” NHS sponsor Ashley Alexander said. “They collect donations for children under the age of 16 whose parent’s income is low and are unable to buy them any christmas gifts.”

The organization collects things like books, stuffed animals, and puzzles and people can volunteer to help wrap the gifts and put them in a box that will be delivered to a family on Christmas day.

“When you go in, they give you a sheet of paper with information about a family in need,” senior Rachel Frith said. “On that paper it gives the ages of the children, so you pick out toys from the warehouse and sort them and put them in a box so that the family in need has toys for Christmas. I thought it was cool that it’s an opportunity for kids who aren’t used to getting presents to be able to have that opportunity.”

NHS volunteered at Brown Santa before three years ago and Alexander has volunteered at Brown Santa herself.

“We’ve done Brown Santa for NHS three years in a row,” Alexander said. “It’s my favorite project to do because you get a sheet and it has the children’s names and their age and you actually get to go pick a book, a stuffed animal, two toys for each child, then wrap them all individually and put them in a box and for some of them that might be the only thing they’re getting on Christmas.”

While NHS participates only in Brown Santa, there is also a similar organization called Blue Santa.

“Brown Santa is the same thing [as Blue Santa], it’s just serving a different part of the city,” Alexander said. “Blue Santa is done through the Austin Police Department, while Brown Santa is run by the Travis County Sheriff’s Department, so it’s different parts of Austin that they focus on. Travis county is a little bit broader than where the Austin Police Department looks through. There are portions of the city where it’s only served by Austin Police Department versus other parts that are outside of the city but are still kind of in Austin that fit into the sheriff’s department- it’s basically the same operation just run by two different warehouses and two different organizations.”

Brown Santa has expanded from initially serving 25 families in 1981 and has now been running for 35 years thanks to the service provided by volunteers such as NHS members.

“I absolutely love Brown Santa and I’ve gone every year since the seventh grade,” sophomore Jennifer Walker said. “I love being able to help out the sheriff’s department and wrap presents for children. It always feels so good to help others out. I think it’s cool seeing everybody at the event coming together for one goal-to help the community.”