ExCEL children get Christmas treat
Published 8:14 pm Monday, December 22, 2014
For the second year running, Washington Police and Fire Services has put together a unique Christmas surprise for some local children: a shopping spree at Walmart with the assistance of a police or firefighter escort to load up their baskets.
Monday, 14 children were invited to “Shop with a Safety Officer,” and spend up to $200 on whatever caught his or her eye at the store. From Barbie dolls to fishing rods to electronics, a slew of volunteers including Police and Fire Services Chief Stacy Drakeford, Fire Chief Robbie Rose, Washington Parks and Recreation Director Kristi Roberson and former NFL wide receiver, and Washington native, Terrance Copper, helped fill Christmas wish lists.
“These were kids that we felt could really benefit from this — and they have limited resources, so we’re able to give back to the organization,” said Kimberly Grimes, WPD’s community outreach director and coordinator of the event.
Grimes spoke of the ExCEL organization (Exceptional Children Enjoying Life) the children belong to — a non-profit dedicated to creating opportunities for special-needs children. It was through ExCEL’s little-league/T-ball program that she and Drakeford became aware of the organization, when the department was asked to help out with one of the games.
With the help of a Walmart grant and a donation from Copper, funds were collected to bring the ExCEL children a little more Christmas joy this season. The Carolina Avenue restaurant Zaxby’s also pitched in, providing an after-shopping lunch for the children.
To Drakeford, events like “Shop with a Safety Officer” are not singular in nature, but represent the department’s philosophy about community outreach.
“This is the culmination of the yearlong service project we have in place for the police and fire services,” Drakeford said.
What Drakeford referred to as a service project, however, resulted in a lot of excitement as gifts made their way from shelf to basket.
“Just to see the kids, the looks on their faces when they get their gifts — it feels so good to be able to give back,” Copper said. “This is not everyday. What they do in Washington — this doesn’t go on everywhere. I feel like the community is very lucky to have a police department and fire department like we have.”