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Officers growing beards, collecting toys for kids
Ceres businesses invited to make monetary donations
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Ceres police officers who grew beards last Christmas season and likely will be this season are: (left to right), Julio Amador, Jason Brock, Keith Griebel, Dirk Niewenhuis, Darrin Venn (Santa), Jeremy Caron, Jason Coley, chaplain Billy Bob Muirhead and Greg Yotsuya. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

As Ceres police officers are growing facial hair for the holiday season as part of the Ceres Police Beards for Kids Toy Drive, Walmart has kicked in $2,500 to help spread holiday cheer.

The Ceres store donated the money to take the families of five needy Ceres families on a $500 shopping spree with an officer escorting. But other families will benefit from the donation of cash, toys and wrapping paper.

The Ceres Police Officers Association has identified, with the help of the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, 10 families and could use more business support.

"We are asking for local Ceres businesses to match or top that donation," said CPOA President and Sgt. Danny Vierra." Every business that donates $500 will allow us to take a family shopping. The businesses will be recognized during our delivery of donated toys."

The Beards for Kids campaign officially got off the ground Nov. 24 when officers and civilian staff at Ceres Police began beards to help bring awareness to underprivileged children in the Ceres community. The campaign goes until Dec. 23 with officers who are growing beards being "fined" $20 apiece to go towards a gift-buying fund. Last year a total of $460 was raised from the "fines."

Ceres police are partnering with the City of Ceres Recreation Division and Ceres Employee Activities Committee to collect donated unwrapped new toys for boys and girls aged from infants to 18. Toys may be dropped off at several locations, including the Ceres Police Department lobby, 2727 Third Street; the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth Street; or at Dollar General in the Richland Shopping Center.

Toys will be distributed close to Christmas by Santa Claus aboard the police SWAT vehicle and officers to families who've been identified by the city as needy by Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children.

In 2013 the beard campaign collected Christmas toys for 46 underprivileged children living in 14 impoverished families. There was so much gift-giving to the Ceres Police Beards for Kids toy drive that there were enough toys for the 100 extra children living in the neighborhoods of the target families.

In 2013 Coley pitched the idea to Ceres Police command staff on behalf of the patrol officers who encounter impoverished children every day. The goal, he said, was to bring joy to these kids and families who might otherwise not have the opportunity to have a Merry Christmas.

Businesses that would like to make a cash donation, should contact CPOA President Danny Vierra at 538-5672.