14th District gift giveaway illustrates ‘real meaning of the season’

To the sounds of sirens and Santa wishing pedestrians “Merry Christmas” over a patrol car’s public address system, officers from the 14th District drove around Germantown Tuesday morning distributing holiday gifts for families in need.

During the long-standing Christmas Day tradition, a convoy of four police vehicles – one, 14C, being pressed into temporary service as Santa’s sleigh – took to the streets to bring presents and food baskets to three households.

Families were selected either through direct appeal to the district, or through a local church or community group. And it’s something of a time-intensive process: Hall said that the families are contacted to determine specific needs, and the children are also asked for presents that they might particularly enjoy.

“We find out what they need,” said Officer Synell Hall, who did much of the shopping, “and then from need we get to toys and gifts and food.”

Hall, community relations officer at the 14th District, said funding for the toys distributed on Tuesday were collected in conjunction with the district’s annual Christmas Party, which was held the previous week.

‘ The real meaning of the season’

Arriving at a home on East Coulter Street, police officers swarmed in behind Santa, carrying bags loaded with gifts- some could barely fit through the doors.

Once inside, the kids wasted no time unwrapping the presents.

“This is so nice,” said Cachella Ford, the head of the Coulter Street household. “This really made Christmas a success for us.”

Assisting the police in the gift-giving was Deacon Frank Krangle from the Christ Redeemer Freewill Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. An 18-year member of the Philadelphia Police Clergy, Krangle has been assigned to the 14th District for five years.

He was present on Tuesday to lead families and officers in prayer as gifts were distributed.”It’s a blessing to know that we can give to the community and to show that the real meaning of the season is to give, not just to receive,” said Krangle.

It was a sentiment shared by one other special guest on Christmas.

“Words couldn’t express it,” said Santa of his participation in the 14th District’s giveaway. “I wish we could give a lot more because there’s still a lot of needy families out there.”

“As long as there’s a need, I’ll be out there to help supply it,” concluded Santa.

And the need continued to arise.

Last-minute holiday help

Upon her return to 14th District headquarters on West Haines Street, Hall was met by one neighborhood resident who had seen the Tuesday morning police convoy stop on Ardleigh Street and turned to the officers for assistance.

Waiting patiently on a bench with his three grandchildren, Germantown resident Ricky Weaver shared his story.A couple of weeks ago, his wife was Christmas shopping at Cheltenham Mall. While there, someone stole her car, taking his grandchildren’s Christmas presents with it.

Together, Weaver and his wife share caretaking duties for the children, having raised them since they were infants.

Compounding the blow was the fact that Weaver has been out of work for months, owing to some work-related injuries and attendant surgeries.

Weaver wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to help his grandkids.

While the request was difficult given the hour, it didn’t stop Officer Hall from trying to accommodate them.

“There’s very little left,” said Hall, “but whatever we have, we’ll try to get it to them.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.