‘Sanitation Santas’ Deliver Holiday Miracles

City of Broken Arrow employee-driven program provides gifts to needy families.

By: Value News | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: December 2021

City of Broken Arrow Sanitation Manager Bill Cade and his department along with other Broken Arrow City staff members, join together to deliver Christmas miracles to Broken Arrow children.

City of Broken Arrow Sanitation Manager Bill Cade and his department along with other Broken Arrow City staff members, join together to deliver Christmas miracles to Broken Arrow children.

By Lesa L. Jones, City of Broken Arrow

Sometimes Santa wears a Cowboy hat. 

For more than 40 years, City of Broken Arrow Sanitation Manager Bill Cade and the Solid Waste and Recycling Department have delivered Christmas miracles to Broken Arrow children in need. 

Cade has been with the City for more than 46 years. He started the Sanitation Santa program after seeing a little boy named Chris running behind his bike-riding friends. 

"He'd run and try and keep up, and it just really broke my heart," Cade said.

Moved with compassion for the youngster, he stopped and asked Chris' mother if he could buy her son a bike for Christmas.

"Just to see how overwhelmed she was that somebody would do that," Cade said. "And to see that little dude's face light up, I went to Walmart and bought him a bike, and it started right there." 

Cade talked it over with the people in his department, and they decided on a name for the program. They immediately started putting their money together and buying presents for people having hardships at Christmas. 

"I think it shines a positive light on the Solid Waste and Recycling Department," Cade said. "I want our department to stand out for doing something special for the kids." 

Jerry Schuber says he first learned of the program in July after becoming the department director. He thinks the program is "amazing." 

"It was here when I got here, and Bill started talking to me about it, and I was astonished that had been going on this long," Schuber said. "And I think Bill's the driving factor of why it stays alive.  Most programs don't last long periods of time, but this one has lasted quite a long time, and I think it's because of Bill and his initiative." 

Over the years, City staff from other departments have donated to the cause by sponsoring a child or a family or by giving monetary donations for gifts, food, or wrapping paper. 

According to Kim Bailey, Risk Management Coordinator for the City of Broken Arrow, the Solid Waste and Recycling Department employees became known for refurbishing used bicycles and gathering new toys and clothes for local children in need. 

"The families range from one or two kiddos to five or six, and they are all ages, from infant to 18 years old. Employees sponsor families, wrap and tag the gifts, usually leaving the 'from' blank so that the parents could fill that in with their name, Santa, etc.  Then, the Sanitation Santas deliver them to the families by Christmas Eve," she said. 

Cade works with area schools to find the children who would benefit most from the program. He hopes that the program will bless the parents as much as the kids. 

The parents fill out a Christmas wish list for their kids, and the people in the department buy the gifts on the lists, wrap the gifts, and arrange a drop-off with the parents sometime before Christmas. It's important to drop off the gifts away from the home so that the children do not see who delivers their presents. 

"The thing is, we don't want to take any of the best parts of Christmas away from the parents," he said. 

The Sanitation Santas do not want any credit or notoriety for their gifts. Instead, they want the kids to know the presents came from their parents. 

"They're the ones who raised them all year," Cade said. "They're the ones having hardships, and if they love their children enough to humble themselves and ask for help so their children can have a good Christmas, we're not going to take credit." 

Cade says giving is "infectious." 

"One lady had gotten kicked out of her house and had just moved into a hotel with two kids," he said. "We heard about her and her kids after we had made all of our purchases. So, we got together some money and got the gifts that we could. We took this little Christmas tree over to the hotel, and this woman just literally dropped to the floor sobbing. And what do you say?" 

Cade says they have no idea how many families they have helped over the years. It isn't about keeping score or gaining publicity. 

"If you ever do it once and you see people that have no way to get help and have settled with the fact that they're just not going to have Christmas," Cade said. "To me, that's horrible. You know, and so when we can help people, they are so grateful." 

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City of Broken Arrow

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The City of Broken Arrow

(918) 251-5311 | Fax: (918) 259-8226
220 S. First Street | Broken Arrow, OK 74012
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