By Darrell Todd Maurina
Uniformed police officers knocking on Curry County doors around Christmas won’t always be serving warrants, investigating crimes, or otherwise making life difficult for lawbreakers.
For 23 years, the Clovis Police Department has worked with other law enforcement agencies in Curry County to sponsor “Operation Santa Claus,” a program to make sure children who might not otherwise get presents for Christmas have something to put under their tree.
While administered by Clovis police, officers work with Curry County deputies and police officers in Texico and Melrose to deliver presents for families in those jurisdictions. Children must be 12 years old or younger.
Clovis police officer Chrissy Jacklin said she has been working in the program longer than anyone else, dating back to her high school days when she was a Police Explorer considering a career in law enforcement. Jacklin said she’s been involved so long because Operation Santa Claus, which began when she wasn’t yet in elementary school, is a highlight of her year.
“To have people’s eyes light up and be happy to see us, that’s great,” Jacklin said. “Personally I enjoy it because I like delivering to kids Christmas Eve. Year round, we typically as police officers arrest the criminals and deal with the bad element. When we do Operation Santa Claus we can give back to the community.”
Jacklin said the program served 800 children last year and wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the efforts of many in the community who donate new or quality used toys at the Clovis Police Department, Clovis fire stations, Watson Motors, or the pickup on display in North Plains Mall. Some businesses make special efforts — Jacklin singled out High Plains Harley-Davidson, through which motorcyclists made special donations during a special toy run on Sunday.
“We had the toy room at the Harley shop and got a very large amount of new toys from the Harley riders,” Jacklin said. “They had a tremendous turnout. I was amazed what they were donating out there — even a motorized scooter that some child is going to love.”
Sgt. Jim Schoeffel said the department accepts requests from anyone in the community. Those who want to arrange toys for their children need to get a form at Clovis police or fire stations or at Pack N Mail at 2508 N. Prince Street, and drop the completed forms off at Pack N Mail. Request forms must be returned by Dec. 19.
“A lot of times police officers get a bad rap on television, and anything we can do to show the community we are one of them and working with them will help our image,” Schoeffel said. “It gives a chance for the department to get involved in the community in a positive way and gives the officers a way to interact with the children that helps the children relate to officers as a friend and someone they can turn to in a time of need.”