Photo by Heather Middleton
By Linda Looney-Bond
Julie Downs, of Morrow, said she cried when she learned that her children were among more than two dozen youngsters who would receive gifts from Santa, as part of the Morrow Police Department's annual Christmas party, which was held Wednesday at Morrow Elementary School.
"This means so much, because we're not going to be able to have much of a Christmas this year," said the 29-year-old.
Downs' three sons, Austin Turner, 7, Ashton Turner, 4, and Aiden Downs, two months old, all received invitations to participate in the event, she said.
In all, 26 families, whose children attend Morrow Elementary School, were chosen to participate this year, according to Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker.
The families are selected by the school's counselors, based on need, he said.
Baker said the families provide a wish list of items, which volunteers use to shop for the children in each family.
"We're not just giving toys," he said. "They also want learning materials, books, and coats. We spend about $100 per child."
Baker said donations pay for the event. "Volunteers will donate money to us throughout the year," he said.
Proceeds from the sale of police department T-shirts, sweat shirts, and hats -- to department personnel -- also help fund the program, he said.
Police department employees, other city employees, and Morrow Elementary School employees volunteer their time to shop, wrap gifts, and set up for the party, according to Baker. He said the police department has hosted the event for about 15 years.
"It started out with about 10 kids, and it's grown each year," said Capt. Scott Olson.
"Last year, it really spiked. It went up to about 20 families, and this year, it's 26 families," added Baker. "It's the economy, and hard times.
"The City of Morrow has always had a strong commitment to the community," Baker said, "and it's a great way to reach out to the kids, and let them meet the police officers, and show it's about more than just locking folks up."
Tiffany Davis, 28, said she her son, Raymont Caldwell, 9, and daughter, Calayka Jones, 6, participated for the first time this year. "This is a hard year. God is good. This really came in handy," she said.