Police seek more toys for annual drive for children
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, December 14, 2012
12/14/12 at 5:34 AM
For every full box of toys in the hallway at the Tulsa Police Department's Riverside Division, there is an empty one.
"Usually by now we're full," said Maj. Julie Harris, who leads of the Riverside Division, which patrols most of the city's south and west sides. "But the halls are pretty empty right now."
This is the third year for the division's toy drive, which collects toys for area children in need. Each year, the department has seen more of a need in the community, and others have stepped up to help provide the children with a better Christmas holiday.
But although the need grows, donations have slowed, Harris said.
Some of the children who receive toys are identified by police officers when they go out on calls and see some of the conditions in which they live. Other times, parents call and ask for help, or neighbors report a need.
The toys are collected, sorted and distributed by the officers in the days before Christmas.
Harris said she started the program after seeing the need that existed in the area. With children going without some of the basic necessities of life, providing extras such as toys at Christmas is not a possibility for their families, she said.
"I remember being a patrol officer and seeing these kids sleeping on mattresses on the floor with broken toys," Harris said. "If we can do this for a few kids, maybe that can make a difference."
The toy drive is organized by the Riverside Division and its officers, but children from across the city will get toys, she said.
Officer Tyrone Jenkins delivered toys to children last year. He said the youngsters light up when they see a police officer bringing them toys.
"It's gratifying to be a part of, because you see the smiles on their faces," he said.
The toy drive is also an opportunity for patrol officers to build a rapport with the communities in which they work. For many of the families, their only interactions with police are negative.
"It's about creating a positive relationship," said Officer Michael Elliot, who also delivered toys last year. "Police are not as bad as you think."
The program instills a positive image in the children and changes adults' perception of police officers, Jenkins said.
The division received requests for gifts for 700 children last year, and there were enough donations to provide gifts for each of them. Some of the more popular toys this year have been Barbie dolls and Lego blocks, Harris said.
She expects the number of children to be about the same this year, but the toys haven't come in as quickly as they did last year.
The division will continue to accept donations through next week, when the officers hope to start taking them to children.
TPD annual toy drive
The Riverside Division is accepting new, unwrapped toys at 7515 Riverside Parkway between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. People who wish to donate but who can't make it to the station during those hours can arrange for donations to be picked up by leaving a message at 918-576-5300.
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Tulsa Police Cpl. Jerrod Hart displays some of the toys collected at the Police Department's Riverside Division on Thursday. The toys will be donated to needy youngsters for Christmas, but more are still needed. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World