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Santa’s helpers in blue, brown

Published 10:20pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Everybody knows that Santa Claus wears a red and white suit and makes his way around the globe on Christmas Eve.

But a group of 23 youngsters from Suffolk learned on Friday that Santa’s helpers can be everywhere, and there’s a good chance they’ll be wearing blue or brown and carrying their service weapons.

For the third year running, members of Lodge No. 41 of the Fraternal Order of Police in Suffolk spent time helping kids shop who had been recommended by Suffolk Social Services for the “Cops & Kids” Christmas program. Each participating child got $100 to spend in funds raised by the FOP. They used that money to shop for Christmas gifts for themselves and for family members.

The shopping day is an extension of a program the FOP has sponsored for 15 years through which food baskets are bought for nearly 30 families around the city. One program helps fill the stomachs of people who otherwise might not eat enough — or eat healthy enough. The other provides toys, clothing and other essentials and not-so-essentials to families that otherwise would likely have to do without.

At Walmart last week, kids bought sheets and pajamas and clothes and — of course — toys, all under the watchful eye of some of the generous men and women who work on Suffolk’s police force and in the sheriff’s department, who helped the children make wise choices while spending their money.

In some cases, it’s likely that Friday’s event was the first positive interaction those kids had ever had with law enforcement officers. For those kids, especially, the annual effort could be a life-changing event; seeing someone’s generous heart can go a long way toward erasing misconceptions about what drives that person. And changing those young perceptions could be the first step along the path that leads away from poverty, gangs, crime and the other problems many of these children face.

It’s a commendable effort by Suffolk’s law enforcement community to step in and make a difference for children who otherwise are at great risk of setting off on a road filled with bad choices and distrust for anyone in a uniform. And judging from the smiles on the children’s faces, Friday was not a day they’ll soon forget.

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