Delaware law enforcement officers participate in Whiskers for Wishes. Others deliver Christmas Spirit.

Whiskers for Wishes
Among the delivery elves (many of them bearded) assisting Santa in Millsboro Police Department’s Whiskers for Wishes program, front row from left: Cpl. Matthew Dufour; Claire Dufour; Shepard Rogers; Grace United Methodist Church Pastor, Rev. Karin Tunnell; Sgt. Barry Wheatley; and Sgt. Patrick Forester; back row, Cpl. Seth Bullock; Santa; MPD Chaplain Roderick Dufour; Sgt. Evan Rogers; Lt. Robert Legates; and Millsboro Finance Director Matt Hall.

For many members of the Millsboro Police Department, the closing months of 2019 has been quite hair-raising.

As in facial hair.

Ditto for members of the Milton Police Department.

Amid beards and mustaches permitted under a council-approved waiver of the department’s grooming code, Millsboro Police Department’s 2019 Whiskers for Wishes campaign culminated Saturday, Dec. 21 with a check presentation at Grace United Methodist and delivery of gifts.

This year’s monetary total, which included generous donations from the community, was a record $6,515.44.

“We beat last year by about $1,000,” said Sgt. Barry Wheatley.

Ten families within the greater Millsboro area identified as having true need were recipients of bags and boxes filled with wrapped gifts. Several bicycles were among the presents delivered by Millsboro police, assisted by town of Millsboro finance director Matt Hall and Santa Claus.

“Ten families; we got them through the schools. We work with the schools,” said Grace UMC Pastor, Rev. Karin Tunnell. “So, it’s really a great triple partnership — Millsboro police, the schools and the church. And we’re just the elves. They (police) do all the fundraising. The counselors at the schools work really hard to get families.”

Money raised in Milton’s in-house fundraising initiative, coined Cops for Kids/No Shave November and December, is earmarked this year for a young girl battling brain cancer for the second time, Milton Police Chief Richard Longo said.

Basically, the entire Milton force has participated in the Cops for Kids/No Shave November and December program, which was launched several years ago.

“We give to a family facing obstacles this time of year,” Chief Longo said. “And a young child battling brain cancer … it touches me personally because my grandson battled leukemia for four or five years, and just last month was designated as a survivor.”

These are prime examples of charitable, community outreach efforts waged by state and local law enforcement in conjunction with the holiday season.

Last week, Delaware State Police Troop 5 in Bridgeville teamed with Santa Claus and businessman Jim Weller, owner of Weller’s Utility Trailers in its Needy Family Christmas initiative. Deliveries were made Thursday, Dec. 19.

“The many deliveries by Santa, troopers, officers and community volunteers were in the Seaford, Lincoln and Milford areas,” said Troop 5 Commander Capt. Alice Brumbley.

Several other departments also conducted outreach efforts.

Georgetown

While Georgetown Police Department does not have an actual in-house program, the department supports a couple churches in the Georgetown area, according to Mayra Reyes, victim services specialist advocate for the Georgetown department.

“They usually request every year a couple families,” said Ms. Reyes. “And then they as churches buy the gifts that they deliver.”

Troop 5 Jim Weller
Well-known businessman Jim Weller, a longtime supporter of Delaware State Police Troop 5’s Needy Family Christmas campaign, helps state trooper TFC Carrie Foskey deliver gifts in this year’s event.

Troop 5 Needy Family Christmas

Troop 5’s benevolent effort is believed to have started back in 1983.

Capt. Brumbley said stories of the recipients vary greatly and are truly heartwarming.

“We have families in need for a variety of reasons,” said Capt. Brumbley. “Many are grandparents unexpectedly raising three or more grandchildren due to the absence of a parent. Some are providing care to children for a parent in a long-term hospital stay. Some are families where one or more of the parents have become disabled but are not yet receiving disability benefits. One family needed to do emergency repairs to make their home habitable, taking all the funds they had set aside for Christmas. And, others are simply struggling financially and need an outpouring of hope.”

Local town and city police officers were invited to join Troop 5 in its deliveries, which evoked emotion.

“Some of our recipient families were quietly grateful. Some of our recipient families cried and shared spontaneous, genuine hugs of relief,” said Capt. Brumbley. “It’s our hope to turn those tears into smiles on Christmas morning.”

For years, Delaware State Police has been delivering to the Murphey School in Dover for years. Capt. Brumbley said the Murphey School is best described as the current-day equivalent of an orphanage, more accurately longer-term group foster care for students ages 7-17, with dorms based on age and gender. The students live at Murphey but attend public schools.

Capt. Brumbley, on behalf of Troop 5, offered sincere thanks to the entire community for its caring compassion and being so benevolent with toy drives, coat drives, food pantries and other ways to share blessings. The Needy Family Christmas was supported by a private family foundation and WBOC’s Draper Holdings’ Bless Our Children campaign.

“And, we owe our gratitude to a number of community volunteers who acted as force multipliers when we were shopping and wrapping. We couldn’t have done all this in three days without their help!” said Capt. Brumbley.

Whiskers for Wishes
Millsboro Police Department Chaplain Roderick E. Dufour helps load the trailer/sleigh with gifts for delivery through the department’s Whiskers for Wishes campaign in collaboration with Grace United Methodist.

Millsboro Whiskers for Wishes

The fourth edition of Whiskers for Wishes runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 31. Officers donate $20 each month to participate in the program. Most officers participated again this year.

Rev. Tunnell said families that selected have a dire need. One needy family was identified by Millsboro Police Department’s victim services specialist advocate, Shea Wise.

“We had a family at the last minute, truly a desperate situation,” Rev. Tunnell said.

In addition to children, there is support for parents or guardians, with household goods or gift cards.

“We always try to help the parents, too, in some way.” Rev. Tunnell said. “The other thing is continuing to build our relationship with the schools to help those families. And that’s what we are here for, really to be a part of the community, to lift up folks who need encouragement.”

All funds donated by officers or via community donations contribute directly to the Whiskers for Wishes campaign.

The first year, in 2016, the program raised $1,535. In 2017, the amount doubled to $3,070. Last year, $5,556.31 was raised.

Laurel Police Department

On Dec 17, Laurel Police Department participated in the Laurel School District’s Winter Fest and gave away several bicycles to children from the community.

Two days later, Laurel police handed out Christmas sweaters to residents and employees of the Harrison House located in Georgetown.

Then on Dec. 21, Laurel police held their annual Christmas presents program for the community.

“This event was a big success the last two years …,” said Laurel Police Department spokesman Cpl. Christopher Story.

And it was this year. Like last year, the department presented games and bicycles to those identified with a need from within the community.

“It truly is the season!” said Cpl. Story.

Milton’s outreach

Milton’s Cops for Kids/No Shave November and December is augmented by the department’s support for other charitable programs.

The department gathered food and toys earmarked for the Ronald McDonald House and outpatient service at A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital and again partnered with Maggie’s 3rd Annual Coat Drive, an effort spurred by a young child, Maggie Bare, to help others.

“It’s for anyone that needs a coat, from kid to adult. This is the second or third year we’ve done that,” said Chief Longo.

Milton police partnered with the Broadkill Beach Community in the support for A.I. DuPont Hospital.

On Saturday, Dec. 21, Milton police joined other agencies – Delaware State Police, Department of Correction, Probation and Parole, Delaware River Bay Authority and Milford, Harrington, Seaford, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere police departments and one from New Jersey – in the Law Enforcement Only organization. They provide the police escort for a “Shop with Cops” Walmart shopping excursion for the 3-year-old son of a Milford police officer who passed away in June of 2017.

Whiskers for Wishes
Millsboro Police Sgt. Barry Wheatley, left, checks off the list as Cpl. Jonathan Zubrowski and Sgt. Patrick Forester carry new bicycles for trailer loading and delivery.

The intent, Chief Longo said, is to “just to show him, we’re still part of your family.”

Milton police support other similar programs, including Angel Flight, a group that flies sick children free or charge.

“I became chief in 2016 and my number one priority was to make the town safer for both residents, my staff, and to do more community outreach with a servant’s heart mentality,” said Chief Longo. “Law enforcement should be selfless service and service unto others, not service unto yourself. That is why we have been involved in a lot of what we do. It’s something we firmly believe in. It’s probably the best part of my job. I don’t care if it’s holding the door for a senior citizen or buying them a cup of coffee instead of them buying you one, or little kids when you can give them gifts, or just say ‘Hello’ or high-five them – that is giving back to the community in ways that you can never ever account for.”

“I’m proud of what our staff has done as far as adapting that type of mindset. You can drive through Milton and our officers wave to you,” Chief Longo added. “Being a police officer means you can have Christmas every day because you can give somebody the gift of hope, the gift of smile, a thank you. You can do things like that every single day. It’s not just the Christmas season.”

Dover Holiday Heroes

Dover PD held its seventh annual Holiday Heroes event on Dec 11, taking 20 children shopping. Overall, spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said, the department helped a total of 55 children overall in the Dover area during the holiday season. The program benefited 60 kids in 2018.

Capital School District teachers, counselors and staff collected names of students and their families for a selection process “based on feedback from the people who spend the most time with the children outside of their families,” according to a news release.

“We believe this helps us select the families most in need and ensures objectivity in the selection process.”

Christmas in Smyrna

Local police presented a four-hour Christmas in Smyrna gathering on Dec. 8 at the Smyrna Opera House. The event was billed as family friendly and included pictures with Santa Claus, local vendors, crafts, foods and sweets, hot chocolate, local bands, police and fire displays. The night culminated with a tree lighting at town hall.