‘Tis the season for giving, and the ninth annual Holiday Helper program will return.
Members from the Gig Harbor Police Department, the Washington State Patrol and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department will be paired up with an under-privileged child to go Christmas shopping together.
The event, sponsored by the Gig Harbor police and the Jaycox Gig Harbor Police Benevolent Fund, started with a few children and $100 to spend. Now it’s a full day of activities.
“This is a phenomenal program and has been such a success,” Gig Harbor Police Service specialist Debra Yerry said. “The community has stepped up to help, especially the Galaxy Theater and Target.”
The police department works with the Peninsula School District, which recommends children ages 7-11 based on social and economic needs. They start with a breakfast before they go shopping at Target with a $350 gift certificate. The day also includes lunch, a tour of the police department and a ride back to school in a police vehicle.
“Service clubs make lunch and help with sweat equity, wrapping all the presents that are bought,” Gig Harbor Police Chief Mike Davis said.
The children can buy whatever they want, for families or themselves, for the holidays.
“The kids may not be getting much of a Christmas, and this gives them the opportunity to give back to their families,” Yerry said.
“Many of the kids come from broken homes, or parents have been arrested and are suspicious of the police,” Davis said. “This program give us a chance to let them get to know us on a personal level. There is value in us instilling a relationship with the kids. I have had kids come up from seven years ago, asking if I remember shopping with them.”
The program is kept small to pair an officer up with a child and give them a chance to form a relationship.
Davis talked about a particular young girl who left an impression, fitting the profile of many of the children in the program.
“She was very serious and concerned about being able to get a present for everyone in her family,” Davis said. “At the end of the shop, she had something for everyone but herself. The whole gift card went for members of her family. I took her on another shopping trip and made sure she got something just for herself.”
“We don’t keep a calculator, and many officers purchase and add things out of their own pockets,” Davis said. “I know an officer bought a bike for a child.”
Each year, new children are chosen to offer the experience to them.
“For many of the kids, they learn that the police are there to help, and it dispels preconceived notions some of them may have,” Yerry said. “Lots of them stop by to say hello after their day with the officers. It makes a big impression and has a positive impact for them.”
“Establishing the relationships endure and benefit the community,” Davis said. “It’s a rewarding experience.”
The community can help support this program by attending a $2 morning movie at Galaxy Theater at the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center.
For more information, call the Gig Harbor Police Department at 253-851-2236.
Movies and showtimes
• “Shrek the Third,” 9:30 a.m. Nov. 9
• “An American Tale — Fivel Goes West,” 9:30 a.m. Nov. 16
• “Madagascar 3,” 9:30 a.m. Nov. 30
• “Rudolph” and “Santa”, 9:30 a.m. Dec. 7
• “The Polar Express,” 9:30 a.m. Dec. 14