Police toy drive surpasses expectations

Zachary Pye and Brittany Pye, from left, helped Lori Jantosciak haul gifts from the department’s truck to the department’s train

Christmas is indeed the season of giving, and Peachtree City residents proved it again as they responded to the police department’s “Light Up the Night” toy drive.

With the community’s help, police were able to provide 42 children and six entire families with a Merry Christmas. On top of that, they were able to help the Fayette County Department of Family and Children Services help another 25 children at the last minute.

Set up in local shopping centers over several evenings, officers used their flashing blue lights to call attention to the toy drive. At each event, it was a common sight to see residents coming out of a store with a cart full of toys pull up to the donation area, police said.

Instead of donating one or two toys, residents would empty their entire shopping cart for the program.

One mother whose children received gifts from the toy drive wrote a letter of thanks to the department, saying her children would not only have a Christmas this year “but probably one of the best they have ever had. And most importantly they have learned a valuable lesson in life that will stay with them forever ... that you should never be selfish and always help others in need.”

The letter also recognizes the generosity of those who donated to the program.

“I would like the citizens of Peachtree City and the Peachtree City Police Department to know how grateful I am for all of their help with Christmas this year. I know there are so many families in our community that are in much need of help especially with the economy the way it is. It’s wonderful to know that the city where you live can reach out to other and help others when in need.”

The mother said she hopes the citizens who helped would be blessed tremendously for their kindness.

“I would like to tell them thanks a million times,” she wrote.

Clark said the department appreciates the community’s support for the drive.

“One of the things I kept hearing was that everybody wanted to know how to help even more families,” Pye said.

The Peachtree City Optimist Club provided a free holiday dinner to each of the families who were helped by the toy drive, Clark noted. Police also extended thanks to the businesses who allowed them to collect toys including Planet Smoothie, Chick-fil-A, Target, the Braelinn Kroger, The Avenue and Walmart

“We had a lot of support from our community partners,” Clark said. “It was everybody working together toward a common goal.”

Pam Ellicott, owner of Planet Smoothie, was “a huge asset” to the toy drive program, Pye added.

The police department’s Community Emergency Response Team helped out with the entire toy drive process from collection to wrapping to delivery. While Pye headed up the program, he was also assisted by two special elves: Lori Jantosciak and Michelle Ward, both of whom did the shopping to meet the families’ needs and wishes.

A large number of volunteers helped wrap and deliver presents; and each collection night the officers were volunteering their own time to help the drive, officials said.

While the department was only asking for toy donations, many residents donated cash which allowed the program to grant special wishes to “some very deserving children” and also help several families with their utility bills, Pye said.

Clark noted that several staffers’ children volunteered to help with the program. Some of those kids also helped officers deliver presents to the families, meeting others who had literally next to nothing in their homes, Clark said.

When the delivery teams left recipients’ homes, they often could barely get to the door because of all the presents that were delivered, Clark said. The police employees and their children benefitted too as they left each home with a heart overflowing with joy.

“Those are great life lessons” for children, Clark said.

Pye said the program began when Clark, who has been chief for little over a year and a half, asked if the department had a toy drive. Clark noted that Pye got the ball rolling from there.

The department had hoped to help just two families since this was the program’s first year. They far exceeded that goal and then some.

Now that the toys have been wrapped and delivered, Pye’s thoughts are already looking forward to next year’s toy drive.

“I’m already looking forward to next year to see how we can improve it,” Pye said.