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Police Lights of Christmas ‘just unbelievably special’

Accepting donations at Community First branches through noon Saturday, Nov. 30

Friday, November 22, 2019
One week remains to collect donations of cash and gift cards for a unique and meaningful holiday fundraiser that one police chief calls “just unbelievably special” while another says it helps reinforce for officers why they chose law enforcement as a career.
It is the fourth annual Police Lights of Christmas program founded by Q90FM radio following the 2016 ambush killing of five Dallas police officers. Community First Credit Union was invited to be a sponsor from the outset and also accepts donations at any of our branches throughout Northeast Wisconsin through noon Saturday, Nov. 30.
During December, two dozen police agencies throughout the region – along with the Appleton Fire Department in honor of fallen firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard who was killed on duty last May – will share more than $60,000 in gift cards to hand out as a holiday boost to needy families and individuals they know are struggling. It’s also a meaningful way for officers to have a positive interaction with members of the public who may be wary of police.

“Having an opportunity to help like this is just unbelievably special,” said Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas. Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka agrees, adding “this program helps officers stoke the flame of serving the community, the main reason we choose this line of work.”

Police agencies who will receive gift cards and blessing bags on Dec. 2 are: Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Neenah, Grand Chute, De Pere, Fox Crossing, Menasha, Kaukauna, Fox Valley Metro, Manitowoc, Ashwaubenon, Sturgeon Bay, Wrightstown, Two Rivers, Wausau, Wisconsin State Patrol, Wisconsin DNR and sheriff’s departments in Brown, Door, Calumet, Manitowoc, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties.

The 750 blessing bags will help officers address immediate needs for families or individuals, often times for the homeless. They are filled with basic items for warmth (a hat, socks and gloves) along with a toothbrush and toothpaste, a bag of snack items, free food coupons and a Christmas card with a note of encouragement.

Heart-warming stories
Police officers often share heart-warming stories about how they’ve distributed the gift cards and bags to grateful citizens.

In December 2018, one police School Resource Officer at a Fox Cities high school said working with school and other officials they were able to identify six individuals or families who could really use a boost. Each student received $50 in gift cards, some of whom expressed that they could finally get a present for a sibling or a parent.

“The holidays can be very stressful for many including high school aged children who live in poverty,” the officer said. “Some of our students have never experienced a traditional holiday with presents in their entire life and know only of it from movies and hearing stories from their friends. Some of these kids also depend heavily on school for their meals and the long break has them worried about where their meals will come from.”

Grateful for kindness
“Some had prior negative contacts with police, some had no contacts at all, some left in tears and some left with a smile from ear to ear,” the officer said. “One of the children who received the gift card had been sleeping in homeless shelters and in her mother’s vehicle for the past year. She came to school every day with a smile on her face, zero behavioral issues and achieved good grades despite life outside of school.”

Chief Styka said Menasha officers look forward to December throughout the year. “Sometimes the stories and situations can be heart-breaking,” he said. “To have the ability to brighten someone’s day is simply incredible. Small acts of kindness can brighten a day, make a connection and help us build relationships.”

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