There was a line to get in the York Police Department Wednesday, but nobody got arrested.
There were gifts, lining the halls, filling the department conference room, spilling over into offices where cops normally interrogate suspects. Dolls and bicycles, stuffed animals and clothes, shoes and surprises all boxed and wrapped and ready for 87 kids in the city.
Parents who had been identified by volunteers and cops as needing a little help at Christmas came to pick up the gifts so, on Christmas morning, all kids would know Santa Claus is real.
Even if the elves wear badges.
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“This is what serving the community is all about,” said York Police Chief Andy Robinson.
The department’s officers, from the chief down to patrol and dispatch, work the toy drive. Robinson himself is so involved that he tried -- unsuccessfully because he is well over 6 feet tall -- to test drive a pink toy car that a lucky girl took home.
All of the donations, which surpassed $5,000, came from the community, from individuals and businesses such as Title Max and people who volunteers and officers know. The gift drive has grown from two families at its start five years ago to serving 37 families this year. Melanie Thomas, a community volunteer, has worked with community policing officer Dale Edwards from the start to coordinate the program and identify families with children who could use a little help.
“What we do is show as many families as we can that the people here love them and care for them,” Thomas said. “Every child deserves Christmas. There is a Santa Claus. The officers, the people who help, they all believe that.”
And the families sure believe it.
Sisters Emily Bankhead and Sheila Bankhead were able to get toys for their grandchildren. Edwards is not a man in blue they run from.
“Officer Dale Edwards, he is out there in the community and he knows us and we know him, even his family,” Sheila Bankhead said. “Great people who are on the side of the people here in York.”
The Christmas program is another way to remind the public the police and the public are on the same team, Edwards said.
“There is far more to being a police officer than locking people up,” Edwards said. “What matters is that people know we care about them and are looking out for them.”
Romea Smith, a mother with four children, said the York police Christmas event is far more than gifts for her kids.
“The police are out there coming to our homes, at school, helping our kids,” Smith said. “They are doing a great job and we as parents appreciate it.”
Even the manner the toys are given out is special.
Every family is invited to the department. The cops and volunteers carried everything out to the cars for transport home to be put under Christmas trees.
The mothers and grandmothers and father and grandfathers -- all they had to do was smile. And some of them such as Romea Smith wanted to do one last thing.
Hug the cops, and say yes, there is a Santa Claus.
Only in York, Santa wears blue.