Families of Fort Mill Elementary students and the Fort Mill Police Department teamed up to make this past Christmas a little happier for some of their own.
For the past four years, School Resource Officer David Bivens has worked with the school to identify needy families at the school and provide gifts at Christmas. The school's November newsletter asked those who could to contribute gifts. It also asked families in need to contact the school to receive the gifts that are collected.
"What really surprised me the most this year, with everyone struggling with the economy, I thought we'd get the smallest amount [of gifts] but we got the largest [so far]," Bivens said.
Bivens became a school resource officer four years ago. During his first year on the job, Fort Mill Elementary asked him to help coordinate the gift drive. Before that, the school had run the program itself, he said. The school collects the gifts and Bivens and the police department handle the distribution. After the gifts are distributed to the families on the school's list, Bivens gives the rest to an area church to distribute to other needy families in the Fort Mill area.
Eight families, with a total of 17 children, asked for help last year. In addition to the gifts collected from Fort Mill Elementary, Bivens also got 10 bicycles in a range of sizes and styles from the Edgemore Auction Barn. The school collected three bikes as well.
Each year,the Auction Barn raises money to buy bikes for children of struggling families. It usually buys about 150 bikes, Bivens said.
Most of the bikes go to residents of Fort Lawn, Edgemore and other small communities in southern York and Lancaster counties, but in 2008, Fort Mill was included as well.
"From this point on, they're going to try to include us each year with 10 bikes," Bivens said.