Austin police department continues Blue Santa program

Members of the Austin Police Department are hoping to get local residents into the holiday spirit during an upcoming program. People who live in the area or are exploring some of the homes for sale in Austin can take full advantage of the department's Blue Santa program to donate gifts to needy families.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin police officers are hoping to collect 6,000 extra gifts this year.

"Our focus today is on the needs of 6,000 people that need service," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told the newspaper. "Blue Santa doesn't care whose responsibility it is. We hope people will listen to these words and plant 6,000 seeds of hope."

In 1972, the Blue Santa program began when two officers started giving out holiday gifts from the back of a patrol car. Local police administrators said they regularly bring gifts to about 15,000 needy children every year.

Acevedo is encouraging people to act quickly to support this year's program.

"If it's been a tradition in your family, please don't sit out this year," Acevedo said. "If it isn't your tradition, make it one."

Austin residents can easily get involved in the program by dropping off gifts or money at numerous locations throughout the city or making online donations. People can also show their support for the program during Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade, which will take place on December 1, 2012, in downtown Austin.

Additionally, many shopping centers across the region sell the latest apparel, technology and toys, so there's a wide variety of stores that people can visit to finish their holiday shopping.

Check out a few of the following shopping centers in Austin to pick up gifts for the Blue Santa program or simply to find holiday presents for friends and family members.

The Domain
The Domain, a 1.3-million-square-foot shopping center, is located at 11410 Century Oaks Terrace and delivers an upscale experience for visitors. It features plenty of stores, including Dick's Sporting Goods, H&M and Macy's, so you're sure to find exactly what you're looking for any time you visit.

Dine at some of the high-end restaurants at The Domain to stay energized during your shopping trip. Establishments such as Jasper's, Maggiano's Little Italy and Kona Grill provide a world-class dining experience, and restaurants such as Master Wok and Subway also offer quick, affordable meals for visitors.

Highland Mall
Located at 6001 Airport Boulevard, the Highland Mall is a great shopping center for holiday shoppers. The mall features stores such as Express, Finish Line and Radio Shack, and you can even take your kids to get photos with Santa Claus here during the holiday season.

The Highland Mall was the first indoor shopping center built in Austin, and has been a popular destination for guests of all ages since it opened its doors in 1971. It is easily accessible from numerous highways, including IH35, Highway 290 and 183, and located near a MetroRail transit stop and a Capital Metro bus stop.

Barton Creek Square
With more than 170 specialty shoppers, you can find everything from fashion to technology at Barton Creek Square. This mall is conveniently located at 2901 South Capital of Texas Highway, at the intersection of Loop 1 and Loop 360, and features an Apple Store, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn Kids and more.

Visit Barton Creek Square to enjoy shopping in a climate-controlled environment. It commonly serves residents in nearby communities in Westlake, Lakeway, downtown Austin, the University of Texas at Austin campus and South Austin, and even features a 14-screen AMC IMAX theater so you can enjoy the latest feature films.