AUSTIN, Texas — Every year, the Austin Police Department's Operation Blue Santa collects toys for thousands of families who are in need during the holiday season.
It's a program close to Marie Bynum's heart. She's been an officer with APD for 13 years. She also sits on the Operation Blue Santa board.
"It’s all fun," said Bynum. "In the meantime, you get a good feeling of you’re doing something for somebody else."
Bynum said she wanted to be an officer with APD since she was seven years old, thanks to one conversation with a cop.
"He knelt on his knee and he said, ‘so what did you see?’ He made me feel like I was important," Bynum recalled. "And I was like, I want to feel like that to another kid."
Bynum now makes plenty of kids feel special through her volunteering with Blue Santa.
APD said it expects to serve more than 6,000 families in 2019.
"When we deliver to a family, and they have nothing," said Bynum. "I understand how that feels, I can honestly say, I know how that child feels."
Bynum grew up in Austin in the Booker T. Washington housing project.
"When you grow up, and you don’t have much – to see the joy in that child brings that to me," Bynum said, as tears started to well up in her eyes. "So, I know how that is. And I’m glad I’m able to do that now."
Bynum said she was a Blue Santa Recipient for three years as a kid, starting at the age of seven. She said she knows the joy a present can bring firsthand.
"I do, I do, and it feels so good," Bynum said, wiping tears from her face. "Even though I cry, it’s not tears of sadness or anything, it’s just I know that that child, that kid, that teenager, whoever that is, is going to feel a little bit better about themselves."
Bynum said it feels like Operation Blue Santa is still giving her a gift.
If you'd like to get involved with Operation Blue Santa, click here.
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