P.S. 67 students cheered, jumped up and down, and smiled as they filed into their school gym, where they received wrapped Christmas gifts from Santa hat-wearing 88th Precinct officers last week.
This is the first year that the precinct has provided gifts to P.S. 67 students – an outreach effort that Deputy Inspector Scott Henderson, commanding officer of the precinct, said will become an annual tradition. The gifts – given to each student at the school, which houses pre-K through fifth grade – included toy dolls, cars and books. Police also provided about 55 coats and pairs of shoes for children from underprivileged families, according to a Community Affairs officer. The gifts were donated, both from police officers and local community members, Henderson said.
“I’m glad [the precinct] came to do this,” said Veronica Perez, whose son, Trumel Hammonds, attends the school. “It’s a good experience. Some kids don’t have it at home.”
The idea came about when Brooklyn Community Church, which holds services at P.S. 67, hosted a recent law enforcement appreciation event. At the event, Henderson asked Temika Francis, P.S. 67’s principal, to speak to attendees about goings-on at the school. During Francis’ talk, precinct officers quickly realized that many P.S. 67 students come from families that lack basic necessities.
“They realized the need that we have here,” Francis said. “Some of our children are from the shelter and some are from the housing projects, and they were in need of coats and shoes and gifts, and so [the precinct] just came in and collaborated and they asked me, would it be OK to have this happen? I thought it was a phenomenal idea.”
Henderson said his staff organized the event in only a week – from gathering donations to wrapping the presents.
“I’m extremely proud that my officers stepped forward at the last minute,” he said.
Angelique Wharton, whose two children attend P.S. 67, said the gift-giving event is a good way to encourage kids to view law enforcement in a positive light. “It shows kids police are not bad,” she said.
Aris Norton, another parent, agreed, noting that her four children enjoyed the event. “[My kids] were stoked,” she said. “It’s a nice experience.”
Norton’s son, Savren, a fifth grader, had good reason to be stoked. He received a special gift – a bicycle – for his strong academic performance and commendable behavior at the school. “I was very excited,” he said.
His friend James Jackson, a fellow fifth grader, added, “It was the best Christmas party ever.”