By Linda Looney-Bond
The Riverdale Police Department is seeking community donations for this year's Christmas with a Cop program that will benefit 13 families, who may not otherwise be able to celebrate Christmas.
Police officers, members of the Riverdale Fire Services Department and Clayton County Sheriff's Office deputies, are expected to participate in the program this year, according to Riverdale Police Sgt. Nicole Rabel.
"They are there to show their support for the families, and we will designate a member of public safety to be their [each family's] elf for the day," said Rabel.
She said that during the event, public safety members will accompany the families as they shop for needed items and gifts at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Riverdale, paid for by grants. Also, on the same day, the Wal-Mart located at 7050 Ga. Hwy 85 in Riverdale will host a party, in which the families will receive gifts from Santa that have been donated by members of the community.
"Essentially, we want to assist families that have been through a traumatic fire or crime-related incident, or have [otherwise] fallen on dire times," Rabel said. She said the participating families have been pre-selected.
"Families are chosen through different groups that have an understanding of a family's well-being," she said. "If it's police-or fire-related, we would know the status of the family. Our schools, as well as the District Attorney's Office and Solicitor General's Office assist us in identifying families that would most benefit from this program."
Rabel said the majority of the families live in Riverdale. Other families live on the outskirts of Riverdale, in unincorporated Clayton County, and have children who attend school in Riverdale.
The Riverdale Police Department began the Christmas with a Cop program in 2007, according to Rabel. This year's event will take place in mid-December, she said.
"It's hosted by the Riverdale Wal-Mart. They're incredibly gracious every year," she said. According to Rabel, each family will shop at the store with a member of the public safety community assisting them.
Wal-Mart, Rabel said, provides a grant specifically for Christmas with a Cop. She said the police department also receives grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice, and various community organizations, which allow the families to shop.
During the visit with Santa, the families will receive items donated by the community, based on a list of needs and wants. The list includes new or gently used coats, new bed sheets and blankets, non-perishable food items, and new and gently used toys, books, and board games. Donations will be collected at the Riverdale Police Department, located at 6690 Church Street, in Riverdale, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m., until 4 p.m.
"Any coats that we have extra, we will provide to the [Clayton County] school system," she said.
The deadline for all donations is Dec. 1, according to Rabel. "We are also looking for volunteers to assist with various tasks, such as gift wrapping, tree trimming, and coat sorting," she said.
For more information, contact Sgt. Nicole Rabel at (770) 909-5416, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.