Leland makes gift-giving part of police work

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By Brian Slattery

LELAND—Leland police provided Grannies Raising Grandkids with a day to shop with a cop Sunday.

And the department’s Christmas cheer continues when they play Santa Cop Dec. 23-24.

“We had four grandmas with 10 grandkids between them,” Leland community resource and crime prevention officer Ernie Mejia said.

Police chief Mike James spearheaded the department’s participation with Grannies Raising Grandkids.

“Chief James wanted to reinstate the (shop with a cop) program to cultivate a relationship between the public and the police department,” Mejia said.

Mejia worked on the shop with a cop program for the past two months, but credits community members, small organizations and businesses that made donations for the successful re-launch.

Kids ages 3-16 each received about $200 for Christmas gifts at the Leland Walmart.

“The grandmas came along. We let them decide between what the kids needed and what they wanted,” Mejia said.

“The community came together. We were short a couple hundred dollars just a day before, but in the last 24 hours we received between $200 and $300 in donations,” Mejia said.

Mejia said a half-dozen police officers and about a dozen members of the Leland Rotary Club—one of the main donors for the program—helped with the shopping spree.

Mejia anticipates a large turnout from the small department for the Santa Cop program to distribute gifts to families in need of a little Christmas this year.

The department has been collecting toys—appropriate for girls and boys of various ages—in bins at Walmart, Piggly Wiggly and other businesses.

Local church leaders will provide names of needy families and the department will match up children with a gift.

Dec. 23-24, patrol officers will deliver items to homes.

“It’s always fun to deliver (gifts to kids). We never have a problem getting somebody to do that,” Mejia said. “It’s in the best interest of the police department to show the community our humanity. We do not want kids learning the police are the enemy. We do not want a wall between the police and the public.”

Mejia said the only time some people ever deal with police is when they are doing something wrong or things are already going bad. The gift-giving allows officers a chance to provide a different perspective.

“And when the economy is down like it is now, we’re blessed to help do what we can,” Mejia said.

Mejia said the collection boxes would still be in stores for a few more days. Gifts that have already been collected are being wrapped and readied to be distributed just before Christmas. 


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.