Cops Giving Tree gives back to local families

Santa Claus talks with youth before passing out presents Dec. 14 during the ninth annual Cops Giving Tree event in Soledad. (Photo by Samantha Bengtson)

SOLEDAD — Several organizations in Soledad and outside the city came together last Friday evening to bring the ninth annual “Cops Giving Tree” event to disadvantaged youth and their families.

About 87 local families received dinner, a bicycle and gifts for their children at the South County YMCA on Dec. 14 as part of a collaboration between the Soledad Police Department, Soledad Unified School District, the California State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Salinas Valley State Prison, Correctional Training Facility and members of the community.

“This is the ninth annual event and was made possible because of donations from local businesses, community organizations, members of the Soledad Police Department and staff from CDCR,” said Soledad Police Chief Eric Sills. “Inmates from the Salinas Valley State Prison donated over $2,000 toward this event as a gesture of support for the less fortunate in our community.”

Staff from the South County YMCA and members of the Soledad High School NJROTC also helped out during the event, checking in and greeting families, serving them dinner and passing out gifts.

Santa Claus arrived at 6 p.m. and about 87 bicycles, tricycles and scooters were handed out to families along with gifts for the children.

While the families waited for Santa to arrive, they were able to decorate cookies, participate in arts and crafts and enjoy their dinner.

“Currently we are trying to serve 87 families, kids from pre-K to eighth grade,” said Joe Gonzales, district executive director for South County YMCA. “The families came from as far as Chualar to Soledad to the Mission District. It’s a huge collaborative that we start planning in October.”

Gonzales said the event is special to the entire group working on it and the families that are involved.

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