Police cars sped through the streets to three Augusta housing developments Tuesday, but instead of responding to bad news, they delivered Santa and trucks full of toys.
About 1,500 children ages 1 to 16 from Olmstead Homes, Jennings Place and Dogwood Terrace got their choice of toys that filled five SUVs and pickup beds for the ninth annual Richmond County Sheriff’s Office toy drive.
“It’s wonderful to be able to give back,” Sheriff Richard Roundtree said. “We’re not out here for bad. We’re out here to give Christmas cheer the day before Christmas.”
When the trucks pulled up with lights flashing at Olmstead Homes, the children screamed, jumped and pointed at Santa Claus and the sheriff, who walked up side by side to greet the children.
Parents and grandparents pulled out cellphones to capture smiles as youngsters walked away with basketballs, board games, dolls, kites and other toys.
“I think this is nice,” said Tonya Mackey, who came with her grandchildren for the first time. “I was more excited than the kids. It’s a blessing because a lot of children don’t get anything.”
Deputy Larry Watkins lifted Mackey’s 2-year-old granddaughter, Dazzlyn, into the back of the Chevrolet Tahoe so she could find the toy she wanted. Dazzlyn pulled out a Minnie Mouse wand, which Mackey said was the perfect gift for her.
Her other grandchildren crowded around to show her their bubble wands, bracelets and toys they had pulled from the trucks.
“It’s good to see them like this instead of how we normally see them,” Watkins said.
Although he wasn’t scheduled to work on Christmas Eve, Watkins volunteered his time to hand out toys in the housing areas he visits every day. He brought along his two children to show them “how blessed they are.”
His daughter Alicia, 9, bounced around with a smile as she handed out toys and candy canes to the children.
“I like it because I like to see the smiles on their faces instead of seeing them sad,” she said.
About 15 youths from 100 Black Men, a youth mentoring program, also gave their time to hand out toys.
“Everyone is helping out,” Roundtree said at Jennings Place as he called over a toddler already with a handful of toys to hand her one more. “We’re all working together.”