Grass Valley Police Officers Association’s ‘Caring and Sharing’ program brings Christmas cheer to families in need
Special to The Union
HOW TO HELP
Giving Tree at Grass Valley Police Department
129 S. Auburn St., Grass Valley
New, unwrapped gifts delivered by Dec. 13
Cash donations to Grass Valley POA for Kmart shopping spree
For Grass Valley police officers involved in the Caring and Sharing program, it’s not all about toys — it’s also about time.
Caring and Sharing is Grass Valley’s version of the national Shop with a Cop concept. Now in its 29th year, Caring and Sharing involves a giving tree, shopping trip, and tasty breakfast for up to two dozen local youths.
“This event gives us the opportunity to give back to our community in a way that demonstrates our officers have huge hearts,” said GVPD Chief Alex Gammelgard. “I think the officers get as much out of the experience as the children we serve.”
The Grass Valley Police Officers Association will have its Christmas Giving Tree erected and decorated by Monday, Dec. 2, in the police station lobby. The tree is adorned with tags listing the ages, genders, and wish lists of young people referred by schools and social service agencies.
Secret Santas throughout the community take a tag, buy a suitable gift, and deliver the unwrapped present to the police department by Dec. 13. That deadline gives Santa’s Elves-in-uniforms time to make the gifts picture perfect with holiday wrapping paper and bows.
“There is a group of us who make the tags and wrap the gifts,” said association President Evan Butler, who will be participating in his ninth Caring and Sharing event. “We serve different kids each year, from toddlers to young teens.”
The specially-selected gifts are just one option. Generous supporters who don’t have the time or inclination to shop can make cash donations. Then, on Dec. 21 at 6 a.m., the kids are dropped off by family members at Kmart. Those kids — bundles of energy and excitement — are teamed with officers, each armed with $60 to $100 of the cash donations collected.
“The giving tree is need-based, and the shopping spree is an opportunity for kids to get what they’ve been dreaming about,” said Gammelgard. “They take home those special gifts to open on Christmas Day.”
Grass Valley city officials often assist the Kmart shopping spree.
“The best part for me is when I tell a child I am privileged to take shopping that he or she has ‘X’ amount of money to spend,” City Council member Jan Arbuckle said, “and they look at me with wide eyes and ask, ‘Really?’ Many of them have never had that kind of money. A lot will use it to buy something for their mom, dad, or siblings. It’s really heartwarming.”
‘WARMS THE HEART’
Next, the kids are loaded onto a school bus donated for the event by Durham Transportation. The bus is escorted by a parade of police cars — with light bars blazing — to IHOP, the International House of Pancakes restaurant that donates breakfasts to the children and officers.
The festivities become even more magical when Santa Claus makes a guest appearance and delivers all the presents from the giving tree.
“The entire event gives kids a positive experience with law enforcement and offesr us a chance to create a positive relationship with the kids,” said officer Butler. “We get to have fun with them. And sometimes our jobs aren’t always fun.”
Vice Mayor Ben Aguilar says Caring and Sharing is one of his favorite events because it makes the holidays brighter for kids in the community, many of whose families may struggle during the holidays.
“These kids are so thoughtful and grateful that it warms my heart,” said Aguilar. “Many use their gift allowance to shop for their family members. We are so fortunate to have a generous and caring group of officers who make such a positive impact on our youth. This is absolutely what the holidays are all about.”
Officer Butler, who is one of the police department’s canine handlers, says his K9 partner Kano joins in the Caring and Sharing festivities.
“In addition to Santa Claus, Kano is the other one there wearing a stocking cap,” said Butler.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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