Deputies Bring Cheer, Joy to Children in AV

By: Claudia Lopez

PALMDALE - Los Angeles County sheriff's officials beat Santa to the punch Tuesday as they spread holiday cheer by distributing toys to children in need countywide.

The department collected toys all month so families in need could enjoy a better and more cheerful Christmas.

Deputy John Gilbert, who helped coordinate the toy giveaway for the Palmdale Sheriff's Station said in previous years deputies in their respective stations would collect toys and submit them to the department's main office in Los Angeles. This year, however, officials decided to give away the toys within the communities they serve.

"Basically during this time of year, the Sheriff's Department as a whole pulls together a toy drive, as well as clothing and food donations and things of that nature. This year, each station runs its own toy drive, gathers its own toys and distributes the toys in its own community," Gilbert said. "The toys came from everywhere. We had very generous donations by the Palmdale Sheriff's boosters club. They donated four bicycles and two Razor scooters.

"We had some from the general public; they were very generous as well. We had approximately 40 toys from the general public."

Deputies also donated toys or raised money to buy toys, Gilbert said.

Several families that received gifts Tuesday were referred to the station by the Sheriff's Department's Special Victims Bureau, which deals with child abuse.

"Some of those families (that) have been in contact with detectives and have had situations this year and have been referred to us by the Special Victims' Bureau as families in special need," Gilbert explained.

Dozens of parents and children crowded the Palmdale station's patio as Santa and Mrs. Claus led them to boxes overflowing with toys. Bicycles and other larger toys were parked beside the boxes.

Jennifer Hardiman of Palmdale who brought her six children ages 2 to 10 to the event, said she didn't know what to do when faced with economic difficulty during Christmas. She wanted her children to have something to look forward to today.

"It's great, it's very great," Hardiman said as she teared up. "If it wasn't for this, my kids wouldn't have Christmas presents this year. I really didn't know about it, I just called and said 'hey, maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't.'"

She said that for Christmas she was going to go home and "give thanks to God."

Claudia and Enrique Atondo of Palmdale said they were grateful for the deputies' effort to bring happiness into their five children's lives by giving them the opportunity to have a good Christmas gift.

"Right now that there is no work, they are helping us out by providing gifts for the children," Claudia Atondo said, as she held her 1-month-old son, Xavier.

"We recognize that the deputies take their time to serve their community, and to do what they do for the community," Enrique Atondo said. "If you think about it, these deputies leave their homes to risk their lives every day to keep us safe. We are very grateful."

"I have a baby," said Claudia and Enrique Atondo's 3-year-old daughter, Darlexa, who was holding a baby doll.

Palmdale Sheriff's Station deputies, accompanied by Santa and Mrs. Claus, boarded a pickup truck full of toys to be distributed to homes across the city and in nearby unincorporated communities.

Lancaster Sheriff's Station deputies, who had their own set of toy drives this month, also made personal toy deliveries to a house in Lake Los Angeles and an east Lancaster house. More than 600 toys and approximately 420 food items were donated to the Lancaster station for distribution, Deputy Miguel Ruiz said Tuesday.

"All of those were graciously donated from deputies at the Lancaster station; our professional staff, which includes our secretary as well as civilian employees; and the good citizens of Lancaster," Ruiz said. "We just want to maintain involvement within the community and primarily because this is something that affects children directly.

"To give a toy to a child is heartwarming - we just want people to know that law enforcement is here to help them; it's not a bad thing. We are not bad people, we just want to make sure we uphold the law, make our community safe, and this is just a good method to help children understand that we are here to help them and the community."

On Monday afternoon, Lancaster deputies passed out other toys to children in Antelope Valley Hospital's pediatrics ward.

"Specifically what we do to distribute the toys is we give a good number of those toys to children directly involved with domestic violence through the Valley Oasis domestic violence shelter; we gave some food also to Grace Resources and a couple toys there. But that's where the majority of toys were distributed," Ruiz said. "We also have a small stock pile of toys that are being distributed by field deputies today and tomorrow in response to children that may be involved with crimes or witnesses of crimes."

Story courtesy of AV Press