By Jay Meisel
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - Children from nearly 100 needy families will receive Christmas gifts, thanks to an annual effort by the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
School resource deputies will deliver gifts wrapped last weekend to homes throughout the county, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said.
Last weekend, sheriff's office employees, members of their families, residents and civic group members showed up to wrap more than 1,000 gifts, Sheriff Mascara said.
The program has been ongoing for more than a decade.
During the last nine years, a partnership with the Mardi Gras Arcade, in which players donate small percentages of their winnings. helped pay for 163 bicycles that will be given as gifts, Sheriff Mascara said.
Fundraisers throughout the year and a donation from an anonymous donor helped pay for the gifts that were wrapped, he said.
Sheriff's Office employees went shopping for the presents, he said.
The majority of the families are selected by school resource deputies who become aware of those in need.
Lt. Douglas V. Hardie, who is commander of the school resource officer division, said each child receives three gifts.
The gifts are selected based on age and whether the child is a boy or a girl, he said.
"It's a great program," Lt. Hardie said. "It's done through donations."
He said the program shows the generosity in the community.
Sheriff Mascara said it demonstrates deputies do a lot more for the community than just arrest those who violate the law.