Cape police officers deliver gifts to needy families
Despite being unemployed and fighting to make ends meet, Cape Coral resident and single mother Michelle Mulloy believed God would help her and her three boys through the holidays.
What Mulloy did not anticipate was the visitor who showed up at her front door Thursday morning as she was getting third-grader Joshua, 9, and fifth-grader Christian, 11, ready for school. Patrick, or “Paddy” as the family calls him, is the youngest child at 2 years old.
“The officer just pulled up in front and asked me my name and my children’s names,” she said, adding the police officer then presented her with gifts for her family for Christmas. “It was just such a blessing … it got a little emotional.”
Over the past week, members of the Cape Coral Police Department have been surprising families in need with gifts donated by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots, local businesses and individuals from the community.
“When I heard word that we were going to give to people in need, I thought it was a great idea,” said Cape Coral Police Officer Joshua Phelps, who contacted area charity organizations to find deserving families.
“There’s plenty of families out there now that can’t provide (gifts for their families for Christmas),” he said. “We’re trying to help them with that.”
Mulloy acknowledged that times are tough.
“It’s been a struggle with making ends meet,” she said.
“I know God would’ve provided because he always does, he always looks out for us,” Mulloy added. “But this is a blessing.”
Cape resident Liffy Perez-Arche, a single mother of four, was also baffled when a police officer stopped by her home. This is the first time something like this has happened to her family, which includes her home-schooled son, Cristian, 17, sixth-grader Suzette, 12, third-grader Daniel, 8, and son Gabriel, 5.
“I had no idea, I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I did not submit my name to any list or anything like that, so I had no idea what was going on.
“I’m like, “Oh my God, no. What happened?’” Perez-Arche said. “Then he pulled out the gifts from the backseat of his car.”
Also unemployed, Perez-Arche said the donations will help her provide a better Christmas for her children, but it was the act of giving itself that touched her.
“I’m blessed that I have a family, so it’s not like they would have gone without. It’s not like they would have had no Christmas,” she said. “But more than anything, it was encouraging, really. To know that there’s somebody that thought of you or took an interest, I think that’s the part of it that I found encouraging.”
CCPD Sgt. Robert Wardrop said the agency has a mix of donations, from stuffed animals to bicycles. He estimated that approximately 300 toys have been collected, including those dropped off during the department’s annual Operation Fill Up the Boat, which was held Dec. 5-6.
Some of the gifts provided to Mulloy’s family included toy cars and robots, an air hockey game, sidewalk chalk, a drum set and bicycle helmet, along with an old favorite, the board game Candy Land.
Perez-Arche said the gifts her family received included sports equipment, Barbie dolls, bike helmets, handheld electronic toys and Transformers.
“One of things that I was not able to buy them was that, so that was good,” she said of the Transformers.
Perez-Arche added that her older children are aware of where the gifts came from, and that her younger two will learn soon enough.
“They are going to know that they came from the police department,” she said. “I know that they’re going to think it’s really cool that, ‘The police gave me this.'”
Phelps said officers plan on handing out gifts until there are none left. Seven to eight families in the Cape’s south district have received presents, with officers in the north and central district also participating.
“We took the initiative to get these gifts to families before Christmas,” he said.
Wardrop praised those involved in the toy collection and distribution.
“They’re great guys, they’re community guys,” he said.
Phelps thanked those who donated the gifts.
“If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.