By Steena Hymes
LaGrange Daily News, Ga.
WEST POINT, Ga. — Christmas came early for the children and senior citizens of West Point courtesy of the West Point Police Department.
With the support of local businesses, 112 children and 20 seniors received gift donations including toys, diapers and food at the West Point Police Department Christmas for the Community Gala.
This is the first year for the Gala, which was jump-started by Chief Jeffery Cato, Officer Jennifer Jones and Captain Robert Fawley.
Selected underprivileged children from the community received $200 to buy toys with and were then escorted to Walmart by a police officer to buy gifts for their parents and siblings. The children were then escorted back to The Depot in West Point where they met with their families, the West Point Police Dept. and community sponsors to receive and give their gifts, followed by a catered lunch. Seniors were given food and assorted items donated by the Salvation Army.
"This is what public service is all about — giving back to your community," Cato said.
The families and seniors were selected by the mayor and council, clergy, the principal at Long Cane Middle School, a representative of the West Point Housing Authority, members of the police department, and representatives of the West Point Senior Center.
The Children wrote Christmas lists prior to the event and Jones spent the entire week shopping for the items.
West Point resident, Tiffany Buchanan's daughter Mekayla Houston was selected by her counselor at West Point Elementary to participate in the gala. Buchanan, a single mother of two, also takes care of her grandmother.
"She knew we were having a hard time and she wanted Mekayla to have a good Christmas," Buchanan said. "I don't know what we would do this year without them."
Buchanan wanted to give a special thanks to Ofc. Jones for making this event happen.
"They have all been so thankful — either they were in tears or I was in tears," Jones said.
A second group of 70 infants and children were also gifted with assorted toys, coats and hygienic necessities. In addition, six families consisting of 22 children were provided with toys as well from the Christian Service Center. Over 120 people were able to receive Christmas gifts and necessities this year from the support of the gala according to Cato.
The funds were provided through the annual Friends of West Point Golf Committee and local businesses.
"Without these organizations, the monetary donations and the toys, this would not have been possible" Cato said.
Sponsors for the gala included: Friends of West Point Golf Committee who donated $4,500; PowerTech donated $3,112; West Point Police Dept. donated 300 toys and clothes; Judaical Correction Services, Inc. donated 67 winter coats, 16 kids skull caps, 38 boxes of diapers and 10 boxes of baby wipes; USMC League and KIA donated 335 toys; Salvation Army donated 20 boxes of assorted food, 140 stuffed animals and 73 puzzles; and WOW donated 100 toys.
"It has truly been one of the most heartwarming events I have been a part of in the community, we are very blessed to be here," Mayor Drew Ferguson IV said. "God has smiled upon this community."
Copyright 2013 the LaGrange Daily News
McClatchy-Tribune News Service