The spirit of Christmas for 31 New Lenox kids arrived not wrapped in red and green—it came dressed in the navy blue uniforms worn by the New Lenox Police Department. The NLPD partnered with MorningStar Mission, Joliet, to take the kids shopping for presents.
Almost one-to-one attention was given the kids who spent Dec. 1 with their newfound friends from the NLPD. Police Chief Bob Sterba said MorningStar Mission had acquired donations of $100 gift cards and distributed them to youngsters whose family's budgets have been devastated by a persistent economic drought. "We took them to Kmart to go shopping," he said, but the ride was made special.
Like the sleigh that Santa rides on Christmas Eve, the MorningStar Mission bus, which was packed with kids, landed in the parking lot at the police station and met a group of real life elves that would take them to buy a toy or two along with gifts for loved ones at home. Not even the famed reindeer, Rudolph, could have shined a light any brighter than the flashing red and blue lights and siren-screaming squads that escorted the bus to its destination.
The two hour shopping excursion for kids between the ages of 6 and 13 included a visit with Santa and assistance selecting a purchase for themselves and just the right gift for loved ones at home. Some of them needed help buying a proper fitting pair of shoes, a sweater or a jacket; others enjoyed tips on what to buy mom or dad.
They got some personal attention, added Deputy Chief Bob Pawlisz, who joined the team on the shopping trip. "I just could not have been happier with the smiles on their faces. It was heartwarming to see these kids truly caring about what presents to buy for their families. ..I think we got more out of it than they did."
Once the shopping was done, the group came back to the police station for a pizza party. They got help then in wrapping their treasures to bring home and put under the tree. What the kids didn't know was that Sterba, while he has no white beard, spread a little Santa cheer of his own. He personally donated about $1,100 to the cause. Initially, MorningStar Mission had only 20 gift cards to distribute, Pawlisz said out of earshot from the chief.
And Kmart helped stretch the money by giving the kids 10 percent off their purchases.
Next year, the NLPD has set a goal of inviting 50 kids to experience the joy of both giving and partaking in the Christmas spirit.
The NLPD is also working with MorningStar Mission, which is entirely funded by donations, to deliver food baskets to families in need this Christmas season.
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