Law Enforcement and Volunteers Deliver Toys and Food to Families
By Steve Goldberg, Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)
On Adam, on Baker, on Charlie and David.
The traditional names of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's police districts may not ring like Donder and Blitzen, but on Monday it didn't matter. Several hundred law enforcement officers and volunteers of all ages - among them about a dozen Santas - handed out food and gifts as part of the 31st annual Police Explorers Christmas Project.
It all started three decades back with now-retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg deputy police chief Glen Mowrey, two other officers, one in a Santa suit, and a couple of police cars. They delivered gifts collected by Quail Hollow Club to 15 families.
This year more than 1,900 children and 600 families will have a brighter Christmas, with a gift of food and presents for the kids.
Mowrey said the experience changes the lives of the young volunteers who deliver gifts with their families.
"Most of these kids don't worry about the basic things, food and gifts this time of year," he said. "They go into homes where there's very little, and it's an experience for these youngsters."
This is the largest annual project of Police Explorer Posts 237/247. Officer Tom Allen, who coordinates the group for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, says about 30 young men and women ages 13 to 20 are in the program this year.
Vincent Able, a 20-year old criminal justice student at Central Piedmont Community College, has been with the group for five years.
"It was more than I expected it to be," he says of his first time. "When you go in these people's houses, some have no furniture, some have no heat. It humbles you and makes you thankful for what you have."
It's an effort that has grown far beyond the resources of the CMPD. Other agencies helping Monday included the Mecklenburg sheriff's office, the Charlotte Fire Department and the Matthews Police Department.
Providence Baptist Church purchased the large hams that go to every family, as they have for more than 20 years. Additional food and gifts are donated by grocery chains, food distributors and other businesses.
Organizers said the majority of the toys come via listener donations at radio station WLNK-FM (107.9 The Link) and from the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.