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Toys handed out to Barstow-area children
[December 27, 2012]

Toys handed out to Barstow-area children

BARSTOW, Dec 26, 2012 (Desert Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- For its 19th year, Christmas Cops and Kids delivered free toys to children in Barstow and the surrounding area throughout the Christmas Eve day.

A police car led one convoy--its wailing siren emitting fast, intermittent light of red and blue--while noisy horns from trailing vehicles honked repeatedly. Anyone not already awake at the event's onset was alerted to the truckloads of gifts now parked outside their homes as parents and children spilled out into the street.

The effort is "geared at trying to get a new toy in the hands of as many kids as possible," Barstow Police Sgt. Tim Heiden said. The concept for the free toy giveaway first began in Heiden's garage with only a couple hundred dollars and a couple hundred toys, he explained.

This year, he said they were just about at their goal of $40,000 worth of purchased and donated toys.

At 7 a.m., the normally empty, old Valley Lumber warehouse on West Main Street was filled with a couple hundred volunteers. At a little after 8 a.m., a safety brief was given and three winning raffle numbers were announced -- a final effort to fundraise for the event.

In a heartfelt gesture, all stood quiet on the cement floor as a poem read aloud was dedicated to the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims and their families as well as recently-deceased Barstow Code Enforcement Officer Danny Zamora. Everyone then broke huddle and got into their pre-assigned groups.

Six teams total split jurisdictions within the city while one team was dedicated solely to Barstow's outlying areas.

"We try to hit all the different areas within the community," Heiden said. While it is difficult to hit every single block, he noted the convoys park for as long as possible so parents and children within the radius can come around.

The first stops for "Team One," which included Police Chief Albert Ramirez and Miss and Miss Teen Barstow, were along Deseret Avenue, before hitting Bighorn Court just south of Rimrock Road.

Parents and children scurried toward one of three pick-up trucks on Bighorn Court--some in pajamas and barefoot--and waited patiently in line behind or next to one. Each truck held toys which started off filled to the bed brim for a different, designated demographic.

Vidalina White, 20, watched as her little sister was gifted a Supermarket Toy set.

"That's awesome," she said about the giveaway. "I'm happy they did this for Barstow -- just in case, for the kids who got nothing." Uta Harrell and her 18-year-old daughter, Jazmine Carter, were just as pleased.

"It's really good for the community," Harrell said.

Carter knew the convoy was coming.

"It's a tradition," she said. "They do it every year." The giveaway was a coordinated effort among about 25 core volunteers, Heiden said, as well as Barstow Police, Barstow Fire, California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, and many other groups and individuals who put in valuable time to make it happen.

Heiden hopes the event will help every year to alter the negative perception about law enforcement from some in the community, seeing as their presence is often only felt to them in situations when something bad has occurred.

In addition to one toy, each child was also given a coupon for a free Del Taco burrito and a candy cane.

"It's about the parent who could not afford to get their child a toy, but now their child will have a toy for Christmas," Heiden said. "We do it for the kids." ___ (c)2012 the Desert Dispatch (Barstow, Calif.) Visit the Desert Dispatch (Barstow, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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