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8th Annual Santa Sheriff’s Program

By Meghan O’Rourke
St. Bonaventure University

This year, the Santa Sheriff’s Program of Cattaraugus County celebrates its eighth year of giving. Plans for the 2011giving season have been underway for a while now. The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office with partnering agencies has been raising funds to purchase gifts for the Cattaraugus County families referred to the program. The Santa Sheriff’s Program was initiated in 2004 by the now Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb in partnership with his brother Dana Whitcomb. At the time, Dana was director of the now-closed Division for Youth Detention Facility in Limestone, N.Y. The program’s goal was to introduce the youth to other aspects of the sheriff’s office and provide them with the experiences of sharing and caring. Since it served its first five families in 2004, the program has grown to serve as much as 26 in 2010, said Deputy Brian Keis, program director for the last three years. Prior to taking on his leadership position, he was involved in the program as a representative for the Sheriff’s office. Local agencies, including the Department of Social Services, Cattaraugus County Community Action, Salamanca Middle School and Cattaraugus-Little Valley Elementary School, refer families and individuals to receive the service of this program. “This year we hope to serve at least 20 families with a planned delivery date of December 21 and 22,” Keis said. “We would like to continue receiving referrals but that will depend on the funds which we have available to provide for the families.” This year, the sheriff’s office has set a goal to collect $5,000 in donations for the program. “As of November 29, we have received $3,150 in donations, which is nearly $2,000 from where we would like to be,” said Keis. “We do have donations that are still coming in and with a little luck we may still have a chance to reach our goal.” Each year the program utilizes the donations in entirety, said Keis. “We do not feel that maintaining a constant bank account does anyone in the community any good.” The sheriff’s office purchases the gifts at area merchants, including Wal-Mart in Olean, N.Y. Wal-Mart contributes monetary donations to the program in addition to a turkey for each family. Community volunteers, including youth from the Salamanca schools and other county agencies, wrap the gifts and package them for delivery. With questions related to the program contact Deputy Keis at (716) 938-9191 ext. 2899 or by e-mail at Those interested in donating may make their contributions payable to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, writing “Santa Sheriff’s” on the memo line. Donations may be sent to 301 Court St., Little Valley, N.Y. 14755. “I would like to thank all of those who have given and continue to support the Santa Sheriff’s Program as well as the other programs that help those in need during this holiday season,” said Keis.