Santa…with a badge

Published 10:35 am Monday, December 18, 2017

JACKSON – The Sheriff’s Office van parked outside the nursing home wasn’t there to arrest anyone or investigate any crime. Instead, it functioned more like Santa’s sleigh, transporting care packages to the residents of the assisted living facility here Tuesday morning.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 47, which consists of law enforcement officers from both Northampton and Halifax counties, delivers these packages to senior citizens in Northampton County nursing homes each year. Because they alternate annually between the western and eastern halves of the county, this year they made visits to Hampton Woods in Jackson and Hampton Manor in Gaston.

“This is something we love to do for our seniors,” said Brenda Burnette, the state trustee for Lodge 47. “Just to see the look on their faces brings joy to each and every one of us.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 47 members Barbara Hawkins (above) and the organization’s president L.J. Burch (below) hand deliver goodie bags to residents of Hampton Woods and Hampton Manor, respectively.

The care packages contain necessity items such as shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs, soap, tissues, socks, and lotion. They also include small snacks and a Christmas card in each bag as well.

“We contact the rest homes to see what they can and cannot have,” Burnette explained. “We don’t want to give them something that they can’t use.”

Some of the items are donated while others are purchased by the Lodge themselves. This year they put together 126 bags for the two facilities they planned to visit.

On Tuesday morning, members of Lodge 47, mostly from the Northampton Sheriff’s Office, came together to pack the gift bags into boxes and then hoist those boxes into the van for delivery. Like Santa checking his list twice, the group checked and double-checked to make sure they had everything before heading out.

At Hampton Woods—their first stop—the group split up and spread out down the hallways, stopping in each room to drop off the care package and chat for a few minutes with the residents.

“I love speaking to them and wishing them a Merry Christmas,” said Northampton County Deputy Barbara Hawkins, whose schedule allowed her to join the delivery group for the first time this year. “I guess I’m thinking that one day I could be here [too]. It could be me.”

Hawkins said she really loves giving back to the senior citizens and seeing the smiles on their faces. The seniors have paved the way, she explained, so now is the time when they should enjoy themselves.

Major L.J. Burch, president of Lodge 47 and a member of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, said the Fraternal Order of Police often participates in various outreach programs geared towards youth, so he’s glad they do this event every December to focus on the elderly in the community as well. Burch also praised members like Burnette and Evelyn Edwards for helping coordinate the program.

By the time the group reached Hampton Manor in Gaston, the residents had gathered in the dining rooms for lunch. The group went to each table, delivering a package and a friendly hug to each person.

Northampton County Chief Deputy Daryl Harmon said he always tries to make an opportunity to accompany the group when they do this event. This year he drove the Sheriff’s Office van full of care packages.

“At the Sheriff’s Office, we are excited about this time of year and we are embracing this opportunity to be able to provide gifts to the elderly,” Harmon explained. “I understand that a lot of residents here may not receive gifts or a visit from their family members.”

Harmon also spoke on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, continuing, “We want them to know we care and they are important to us, and it makes us feel good to know that we are able to lift their spirits and put a big smile on their faces.”

By the time each care package had been distributed, it wasn’t just the nursing home residents who were smiling.