SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A Christmas present under the tree for every kid in Santa Maria - that's the goal of the Santa Maria Police Department. Officers had some of Santa's little helpers today at the Elks Lodge to help them out.
Greg Rodriguez with the Santa Maria Elks Lodge is making sure no-one has a childhood Christmas like he did.
"For me and my brothers and sisters, a big event was to get the Sears catalog and say I want that, I want that and I want that.. and knowing that it wasn't going to come true," Greg Rodriguez with the Santa Maria Elks Lodge said.
Rodriguez' parents were struggling farmers.
"Toys may be minor but it's the showing to kids that there's people out there who care," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says growing up around the holidays, his family was happy just to have the lights on and a roof over their heads.
"I knew if I had the opportunity when I was older, I would do everything I could to make sure no kid had to go through Christmas without a Christmas gift," Rodriguez said.
So Rodriguez and the Santa Maria Elks Lodge started saving the tip money from their bingo nights and gave the police department a call to talk about donating some toys - and it's a good thing, because the police department just finished its toy drive and were a little short.
(Officer Mike Guerra - Santa Maria Police Department) "Imagine if that kid was running to the tree and did not receive a gift," Santa Maria Police Officer Mike Guerra said.
The Elks Lodge was able to raise more than $1,000. That money was equivalent to four shopping carts full of toys. They were loaded up in a Humvee at the Elks Lodge Tuesday to be given out to local kids in need.
"It culminates with the kids running down the stairs or the hallway right to the tree and picking up several gifts and shaking them," Guerra said.
Guerra hopes to make this an annual tradition. Rodriguez says he plans to continue his retirement by volunteering for good causes like this one at the Elks Lodge.
"I got plenty of time on my hands and it keeps me occupied, keeps me out of trouble so the officer isn't watching me all the time," Rodriguez joked.