Dec 062011
 
Authors: Bailey Constas

Usually cops hand out things with three letters: MIPs, DUIs, DWIs, but during the holiday season they trade in these acronyms for presents.

“All of the law enforcement volunteers, private individuals and businesses [in the area] donate time and provide Christmas gifts to the underprivileged children of Larimer County,” said Jennifer Hillmann, a board member for Santa Cops, an annual 25-year long event put on by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

On delivery day, which this year is Dec. 17, uniformed officers go to each house and deliver the gifts.

“We try to establish a good relationship to kids,” Hillmann said. “Law enforcement officials are not something to be afraid of; they have other uses besides just coming to arrest someone.”

Most years the cops visit local trailer parks, which is a concentrated area for deliveries.

When delivering to the trailer parks, “We have the Larimer County posse on horse back,” Hillmann said. “They actually have a sleigh that they hook up to the horses, and they will have someone dressed up as Santa.”

To receive gifts, families in need register their children at locations throughout Fort Collins and Loveland.

This year’s count includes 1,120 families and 2,703 children.

According to Hillmann, registration usually runs for three weeks starting in the beginning of November. Registration includes the children’s names, ages and two to three gift ideas for each child, each ranging in price from $25 and $30.

In order to wrap the many presents, board members, volunteers and officers come together to have “wrap nights.”

“We had about 4,000 gifts this year, and the first two weeks in December we wrap the presents,” Hillmann said.

Officer Mary Marchio, a crime prevention officer for Loveland Police Department has been involved in the delivery aspect of Santa Cops for seven years.

“A lot of the time, especially with the children, they only get to see us in a negative light,” Marchio said, adding that being able to have them see officers in a positive way is the reason why she became involved in Santa Cops.

The most rewarding part of delivery is “to see the smile on the kids faces,” Marchio said.

“We go into homes that they don’t have anything, and that’s the only Christmas gift that they are going to get,” she added.

“I don’t think the community gets enough credit for how much they help us,” Marchio said. “The community’s volunteering and donations makes a huge impact on what we’re able to provide for these kids.”

As for funds, Hillmann said they host different craft sales near Christmas and in July.

“Last year we had a golf tournament,” Hillmann said. “We try to have different kinds of events … to get more people and the community involved.”

“Most of the businesses in the area are aware of us, and a lot of them have donated toys or money. They usually help us out,” she added.

Matthew Staley, an officer with the Colorado State University Police Department, said he joined Santa Cops because he thinks everyone should try to make time for those less fortunate.

“Santa Cops allows me the opportunity to show the community at large that the police can be a compassionate entity of government, not just the enforcement arm,” Staley said.

Collegian writer Bailey Constas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:14 pm

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