Issaquah police trade blue for red to brighten Christmas for families

December 25, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Officer swaps blue uniform for red suit to play Santa

Santa Claus delivers gifts to 7-year-old Blanca Gomez and 6-year-old Sergio Gomez Jr. as the Issaquah Police Department delivers Christmas gifts to local families Dec. 19. By Jacqueline Kerness/Issaquah Police Department

Santa Claus traded the sleigh for a police SUV not long before Christmas.

Issaquah Police Department officers joined the jolly old elf to deliver some holiday cheer and — most importantly, for some fortunate children — Christmas gifts.

The department adopts at least one local family each Christmas, and the officers in blue collect gifts and then join Santa to make the family’s holiday merry and bright. Just after Thanksgiving, police officers and employees started preparing to brighten the holidays for a pair of families.

Throughout the holiday season, police officers and employees spent their own money to buy gifts. The children in both families ranged from 1 to 17, so officers headed out shopping, wish lists in hand.

Then, officers and Santa piled into police vehicles Dec. 19 for the deliveries.

“The kids just had these huge smiles on their faces, and with their parents, it was the same thing,” Police Chief Paul Ayers said after the deliveries. “It was quite a thing to see.”

The process started weeks earlier, after Police Communications Specialist Jacqueline Kerness reached out to the Issaquah School District for some help with finding families in need.

Kerness bought Christmas trees for the families at a Black Friday sale and dropped off the trees not long after Thanksgiving.

“I couldn’t sleep after Thanksgiving,” she said. “I went to bed and woke up at 1 o’clock in the morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I remembered that Target was open, so I went over to Target and got two trees.”

Once delivery day arrives, officers and Santa — spoiler alert — motorcycle officer John Lindner, in a red suit, headed to the families’ homes.

“Usually, the parents know to have the kids answer the door, and once they see Santa, their faces light up,” Kerness said.

Then, Kerness and other department staffers serve as elves, handing gifts to Santa and answering children’s questions.

“They asked why Santa didn’t have a sleigh, and we said, ‘Well, the sleigh is in the shop and one of the reindeer had a flat,’” Kerness joked. “That was the best thing I could come up with.”

Police asked children to open only one gift during the event and save the others for Dec. 25.

“They want to open those gifts now, and we make sure to say, ‘You can only open one. You have to wait until Christmas,’” Kerness said.

The deliveries marked the latest holiday project for the police department. The agency served as a collection site for Operation Bald Eagle’s Toys for Troops drive and sent officers to participate in a recent Shop with a Cop event in Factoria.

The project to adopt a family each Christmas is a department tradition among officers and employees.

“I get a lot of feedback that they look forward to it every year,” Kerness said.

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