For one Friday afternoon in late December, the Placerville area California Highway Patrol office was transformed into Santa’s workshop.
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After several weeks of collecting new and unused toys from donors across El Dorado County, local CHP officers welcomed more than 100 families to the Placerville station on LoHi Way Friday for some holiday cheer.
Starting at 10 a.m., families were invited into the office to browse and select from the mountains of donated toys. But many locals braved the cold weather and began lining up as early as 7:30 a.m. that morning.
“In recent years, especially with the economy the way it is, it’s important to give back to the community however we can,” said officer Dan Stark.
All told, more than 150 county families were helped by the CHiPs for Kids drive, according to Stark.
This year’s toy drive received an unexpected boost from Flashie Lassie Queen Joann Coffin.
For the past decade, Coffin and her fellow Red Had Society members have given stuffed animals to the local CHP office.
But for the CHiPs for Kids drive, Coffin’s gifts were of a far less cuddly nature.
Coffin donated 15 bikes to the CHP office, for which she received a commendation from the CHP’s area commander.
“We wouldn’t have this CHiPs for Kids if it weren’t for people like Joann,” said Lt. Chuck King. “She didn’t ask for recognition but people like her deserve it.”
To help distribute the gifts, officers enlisted the help of local high school students and called upon cadets from the newly formed Explorers post.
“I’m here to give back to the community and those who are less fortunate and help give them a better Christmas,” said CHP Explorers cadet Gabrielle Fluegel, 19.
Moments before the first families were allowed to choose their gifts, Stark gathered the volunteers and reminded them of the real reason for the toy drive.
“The whole objective is for them to walk out with a big smile on their faces,” he said.
By Friday afternoon, every family that lined up had been helped.
“We appreciate everyone’s support,” said King. “Whether they bring in one item or 15 bikes, this is what the holiday season is all about.”