TURLOCK, Calif. (KTXL) -- The Turlock Police Department’s popular Blue Santa program has been canceled just before the holiday season due to city budget cuts.
The program provided toys and other donated items to families in need during the holidays.
“I think it's disappointing because I know that that helps a lot of families in the community provide Christmas for their kids,” Turlock resident Ariane Riddle said. “That's a great rapport-building opportunity for them as well to help build those relationships with community members and really feel that connection with the community."
The program had been in operation since 2012, with Santa Cop making appearances in schools giving safety presentations and at other community events.
Riddle said it's a loss for the city.
“It's really difficult to see as a community member knowing that this is doing something good. This is putting back into our community in ways that are positive and uplifting and really bring us together,” she said.
The department said since news of the cancellation spread, different community organizations have called wanting to help, but said it's not a case of lack of donations. It's a personnel issue that can't be overcome.
The department just can't afford the overtime it would have to pay officers to run the program this year.
“This is an excellent opportunity to really come together as a community and that can't happen because there's just not the funds,” Riddle said.
Riddle said while she understands the city has to prioritize, she doesn't think city leaders should overlook outreach programs like Blue Santa and the impact it has on the community.
“I hope that we could get to a financially stable place where we could really offer these awesome programs to help build up that community feel,” she said.