FOP passes out gifts with Operation Santa Claus

Published 6:34 pm Friday, December 21, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Christmastime marks the season of giving, but not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to provide their children with many gifts under the tree each year.

Many different organizations around Chilton County work to give back to those less fortunate during the holidays.

The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police utilizes donations to pass out gifts as part of Operation Santa Claus. This year, the FOP provided bags containing Christmas gifts to 56 area families at the FOP lodge on Dec. 18.

“We have folks that donate us toys, and different people that donate us money,” said FOP President Warren Garris, who is a patrolman for the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office. “We have it in a fund called Operation Santa Claus, and that money is strictly used to buy toys for kids in Chilton County. The only ones we don’t help are ones that DHR is already helping, and Maplesville does their own (program) Toys for Kids.”

Garris said the Chilton County FOP has been passing out gifts at Christmastime annually for about 14 years.

Families must apply in advance in order to be considered for the program.

“We put out applications about the first of October,” Garris said. “They come pick up an application, fill it out and leave it with us. The only two locations we have are at the county jail and the Sheriff’s Office. On Nov. 15, we pick the applications up. The FOP will have a meeting, and we will go through and sort them into ones we can definitely help, some we might be able to help and ones we can’t help because they make more money than we do.”

The parents who apply will generally include a wish list of items their children have asked for.

“We can’t get them everything they want,” Garris said. “We can’t get them motorcycles, scooters and things like that, but we try to get them enough that they will have something to open for Christmas. We might get things like remote control cars for the boys and jewelry and children’s makeup for the girls. We also have some bicycles for them.”

Once the FOP has sorted through the requests and selected those they will be giving items to, the families are then contacted.

“We have some ladies that sit down in their spare time, and they will call every one of these people and let them know if they have been approved and what night and time they need to be here,” Garris said. “Then we will distribute all we’ve got to the families that show up (on the designated night). Then we hope everyone has a merry Christmas.”

FOP members and others volunteer their time to organize the event and pass out the gifts.

“It fills us all with joy to be able to help the community and the people in the county that may be less fortunate than others,” Garris said. “We don’t get a dime for this. Everyone here is volunteering their time to be here. If we didn’t have volunteers, we wouldn’t have this (event). That’s what the FOP does; we serve the community.”

One such volunteer was CCSO transport officer Bruce Yeager, who helped take bicycles and bags with Christmas gifts to recipient families.

“I think it’s an awesome experience to be able to come out here and commit time to the public and give back to the community,” he said. “I think it’s something that everyone should take the opportunity to experience to get in the spirit of giving. Hopefully, it will bring a little cheer into everyone’s hearts.”