The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 21, 2012

Police launch toy, cash collection

Patrick Buchnowski

WINDBER — For the 13th year, spirited elves dressed in blue are making Christmas brighter for needy families in the Windber area.

Each year, more than 225 children and their families are served by the Paint Township Police Department’s annual Christmas For Kids drive.

The department is collecting money and gift donations.

Police will wrap the gifts and buy food certificates to distribute to children and their families during a Dec. 19 Christmas party at the Windber Community Building on Graham Avenue.

The Christmas program gives children a chance to meet the men and women in blue.

“We want kids to understand that this comes from the police,” Chief Rick Skiles said. “It helps us build a rapport with them and gives us an opportunity to give something back to the community.”

Skiles said the names of needy youngsters are gathered from local churches and civic organizations and submitted to the police department.

Police then mail postcards to families inviting them to the Christmas party.

“It was a very touching experience for me last year,” township Supervisor Joe Huff said.

Huff and his wife were volunteers at last year’s Christmas bash.

“If I didn’t get anything else it wouldn’t have mattered,” Huff said. “That was my Christmas gift.”

Christmas for Kids began in 2000 when then-Mayor Ben Bonitz thought the department could benefit from some public relations work.

Police used to deliver gifts door to door, but sometimes the children weren’t home. Now the department throws a Christmas party with refreshments. 

With the township’s turbulent finances, Christmas For Kids was almost canceled this year.

“After talking to some people, I said ‘Ya know what? This is for the kids,’ ” Skiles said. “We’re going to find a way to make it happen.”

Donations of new, unwrapped toys and cash are being accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 14. Stuffed animals will be accepted.

Checks can be made payable to Paint Township Police Community Account and mailed to 1741 Basin Drive, Windber, Pa., 15963.

For more information, call 467-8383 or 467-8444.