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These Santas wear deputies’ unfiforms

by Merrie Leininger, Staff Writer

Santa Claus is usually pictured in a different outfit.

But this year, many people in the community are saying thank you to a Santa dressed in a sheriff’s uniform.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies have for the fourth year in a row organized a toy donation campaign to bring a record amount of toys, games, clothes, coats and shoes to needy families for Christmas.

The Santas at the sheriff’s office claim they couldn’t have done it without their elves – Douglas county residents.

“The community stepped up to do something pretty special,” said Deputy Pat Brooks.

Schools, day care centers and churches recommend families that could use the extra help at the holidays. Deputy Jennie Hill then calls the families to get ages and sizes of the children.

“We were able to give more than before because the community has been so generous,” said Hill. “We couldn’t thank them enough. We don’t want to pat ourselves on the back. They just did it because they believe in the program, they didn’t want any recognition.”

Next year, Hill said deputies plan to start the program at the beginning of November and hope to collect even more toys and help even more families.

Hill estimated DCSO collected double the amount of toys and money than last year’s drive and she said the event has gotten bigger every year.

She said they gave items to at least 325 children and each child got at least three things – coats, shoes, games, trucks and even bicycles.

“Overall, it was a very rewarding and enjoyable experience,” Hill said. “This community is so wonderful, it is unreal. This is the way things should be.”

Hill also gave credit to all the employees of the sheriff’s office who chipped in. Records clerks raffled off a large stuffed Grinch and raised $372. Sheriff’s office volunteer Carol Whorter worked a booth at the Genoa Christmas Faire and raised more than $200.

Also, Rancho Grande again donated lunches to anyone who donated items at the restaurant Dec. 12.

Athena International Inc. wrote the program a $1,000 check.

Hill said people would just walk up to her and hand her hundreds of dollars and everyday she came into work, the donation boxes would be full.

“I was down at Rancho Grande with two other guys and someone introduced me to a couple and they handed me a hundred dollar bill. I just happened to be the right place at the right time,” said Investigator Mark Munoz.

With the money donated, the officers went on a shopping spree. Hill said the stores also gave them discounts.

“We had a great time. We each got shopping carts and divided up the list and went our own way. It was just neat,” she said. “When we came back we were bouncing off the walls.”

“We had a blast,” Brooks said.