By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberty police officers played Santa for a day as they delivered presents to two dozen elderly residents in the city Thursday morning. The stand-in Santas came bearing gifts of canned and dry food items, peanut butter, snacks and blankets for the senior citizens selected for the department’s Silver Santa program.
In its ninth year at Liberty PD, Silver Santa recipients are selected based on referrals from area churches and community outreach groups, and the Project on Aging, according to Interim Chief Gary Martin.
“This program was started at Liberty Police Department by employees of the department. We take donations from the community throughout the year and then at Christmas time we go to Walmart and purchase items,” Martin said. “It’s a good event and the employees enjoy it.”
Lt. Elaine Taylor, who organized this year’s event, said many of the recipients live alone with little or no family to see to their daily welfare.
“There are always programs that benefit children but the elderly are often overlooked. Many are shut-in or don’t have family members, so we just want to show them that people still care about them,” Taylor said. “It’s wonderful to see their faces light up. They are very appreciative.”
For Sgt. Joel Davila, Silver Santa deliveries provided an opportunity to check in on one of his favorite elderly residents, Mary Bennett. Davila surprised Bennett on her porch as she was visiting with a neighbor. After hugging Davila, whom she called her “favorite officer,” Bennett looked inside the box and said to her neighbor with a chuckle, “I have peanut butter. We are having sandwiches later.”
Walking away from Bennett’s apartment en route to another delivery, Davila he explained the importance of having positive interactions between residents and police officers.
“We see people in so many different situations. We want them to see we are not only the officers they see pulling people over or responding to an emergency,” Davila said. “We are there to help in other aspects of their lives. We are here to help everybody.”