Phoenix police officers carry on with nearly 30-year-old holiday giving tradition
PHOENIX — Wednesday marked the 27th anniversary of a special holiday tradition carried out by Phoenix Police Department officers.
Residents of Hacienda de Los Angeles – located near South Mountain Park – were given some holiday gifts, courtesy of the officers.
Arlin Acosta with the facility said the tradition is the highlight of the year for many residents, some of whom can neither speak nor walk.
“They don’t use words, like you and I,” she said. “But, when their face lights up and they get excited and they start laughing or clapping, we know they’re enjoying every moment of this event.”
The Hacienda celebration began in 1989 after a fire at the facility gutted a building. Phoenix Police Sgt. Vincent Lewis said the responding officers and firefighters noticed the residents’ Christmas wasn’t going to happen that year because of the blaze.
They decided to do something about it.
“[The first responders] pooled their resources,” Lewis said. “They bought gifts and donations and so forth.”
Ever since, the South Mountain Precinct has carried on with the annual event. The officers escort “Blue Santa” via motorcade to Hacienda, where officers pass out gifts to every resident.
Even those who can’t speak show their joy.
“When the residents start laughing – especially when it’s an individual who’s non-verbal – that, without fail, brings tears to my eyes,” Acosta said.