By Joel Hall
Eleven families in the Riverdale area had their Christmas wishes fulfilled by the Riverdale Police Department during the annual "Christmas with a Cop" program.
On Saturday, the police department and a number of local sponsors, treated several families to lunch and a shopping spree at the Wal-Mart Superstore on State Highway 85 in Riverdale.
"Christmas is a time of the year that is typically festive," said Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson. "We found that there were a number of people in the community, who through difficult circumstance, ... are distraught."
For the past three years, Patterson said the police department has teamed up with city schools, and the business community, to "locate needy families who otherwise wouldn't have a Christmas."
Wal-Mart provided each of the families with shopping allowances to buy clothes, toys, and anything else they may need. Super H-Mart, Pizza Hut, Panda Express, and Subway provided lunch for the families.
In addition to shopping and lunch, the families participated in team-building exercises, in which they had to use specific materials to build gingerbread houses.
Sgt. Nicole Rabel of the Riverdale Police Department coordinated this year's program.
"One of the children said to a counselor that all they wanted for Christmas was some shoes and underwear," said Rabel. "I think that is a tremendous statement for a child, given the fact that there are commercials and catalogues.
"It has been very satisfying to us to know that we can help other people in the community," she said.
Patterson said projects such as "Christmas with a Cop" help make the community safer, because they allow the public to get to know and trust police officers, as individuals.
"We don't want people to run from the police, we want them to run to the police," said Patterson. "We do that by engaging the community in activities that make them feel like an integral part of the community."