LEMOORE— The holiday season is filled with special moments like the excitement on childrens' faces when they unwrap their Christmas gifts.
Unfortunately, not every child has that excitement because some families can’t afford to buy presents for their children for Christmas.
The Lemoore Police Department hopes that every child has a gift to unwrap during the holidays with two programs – Reason for the Season and Presents on Patrol.
“We will reach as many families as we can,” said Lemoore Police Cmdr. Steve Rossi.
In the Reason for the Season program the department gives away gifts to children including food baskets that are donated by Lemoore Christian Aid. The event will happen on Friday at the Lemoore Civic Auditorium.
In Presents on Patrol officers pick a family and buys gifts for family members. On Monday, a group of officers and volunteers, including Santa, will distribute the gifts to families at their homes.
For both programs, the department gets a list of kids who are in need from local elementary schools, Rossi said.
“It’s a good reminder for the public that we are not robots,” Rossi said. “We are not machines. We are not just out here to enforce laws and take people to jail. We are here to build a bond with people in our community.”
Lemoore Police Community Service Officer Soledad Perez said Reason for the Season has grown tremendously over the years since it started in 2004.
Perez said the program started with a $5,000 donation from Cannon Moving and Storage from Lemoore. Now the program receives about $10,000 annually in donations from community organizations, businesses and individuals
Volunteers purchased gifts for more than 200 kids the past two weekends at Kmart, which opened early for them to make the purchases.
So far, Perez said they’ve spent about $8,500 in gifts and will continue to shop this week as more families are being added to the list.
“We continue to add families until [Friday],” she said.
Rossi said social media helps the program grow.
“When we get something out [on social media] it reaches more people and the more people it reaches the more apt we are to get donations.”
Lemoore Police Cmdr. Maggie Ochoa said Presents on Patrol has been going on for more than 20 years and started with department Chaplain Gene Pensiero, who wanted to provide gifts for children.
“There are at least 30 families on the tree [the officers pick a family from]," she said.
Ochoa said the two programs give the department an opportunity to make sure that most kids have at least one present to open on Christmas.