LEMOORE — Anyone in Lemoore Wednesday afternoon may have thought a huge crime had occurred with the number of police cars driving around with their lights on, but the commotion was all in the name of giving.
The Lemoore Police Department once again took part in its Presents on Patrol event.
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.
Every year, the department’s Presents on Patrol program collects names of elementary students in need and places them on the department’s “angel” Christmas tree. Donations for the program come from local businesses and organizations.
The names, along with the child’s Christmas wish list, are then picked by volunteers, and shopping for the selected students begins. Once all the toys are bought and wrapped, the volunteers go out with Santa Claus to distribute the gifts.
But the presents aren’t just distributed, they are distributed with flair.
A caravan of about 10 police cars and a few volunteer cars go around to every stop and everyone inside the cars gets out to meet the families and other kids around the neighborhoods. Even Santa traded his sleigh for an SUV and was escorted to each stop.
Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith, along with Cmdr. Maggie Ochoa, Cmdr. Michael Kendall and sergeants and officers were part of the caravan of gift givers.
Besides officers, Lemoore Police Explorers, Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson and his family, and numerous other volunteers were a part of the event.
Soledad Perez, a community service officer, said the officers and volunteers stopped by 15 locations, including homes, apartment complexes and a mobile home park to deliver the Christmas presents to the children and their families.
It was quite a scene to witness, as curious residents came out of their homes to investigate what was happening. It didn’t take long for them to realize what was happening, however, and they began to wave at the officers driving by or walked out to talk with officers.
In all, Perez estimated about 200 kids received some sort of gift on Wednesday. Lemoore Police Explorers carried around several bags of small gifts like coloring books and crayons to give to curious children who walked up to the officers.
Even with all the work, planning and organizing that goes into Presents on Patrol, Perez said it was all worth it to be able to help those in need in the community.
“The experience is unforgettable,” Perez said. “To see the smiles on the kids’ faces really pays off.”
Perez said at the last stop, which was a mobile home park, she saw a girl watching another family get presents. Perez said there was one extra bike to give out, so she asked the girl if she thought Santa had something for her.
Perez said the girl replied, “no,” that she didn’t think Santa had brought anything for her. Perez said she told the girl to turn around and presented the bike to her.
“She saw the bike and started crying,” Perez said. “Those are the things that make you forget how tired you are.”
Perez said it’s great to witness the positive contact between officers and citizens and knows that programs like Presents on Patrol help children see the officers differently.
“We’re very fortunate that the police department allows us to reach out like this,” Perez said.