For more than 30 years, Bay County Sheriff's Office employees provided hundreds of local children with Christmas. This year is the 33rd year for Project 25. Tuesday night was shopping night for Sheriff's Office workers and volunteers.
Back in 1981 Bay County Sheriff's Lt. Butch Leonard decided to do something about families requesting help for their children at Christmas, so he came up with Project 25.
33 years later Project 25 is as strong as ever. For about half those years Sheriff's Office workers and community volunteers have bought toys for children in need at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Callaway. This year they're buying for 300 children.
"Every year,” Sheriff Frank McKeithren says, “it doesn't matter how many we shop for, we always have to go back, we always have to dig up a can and get a little more money out but it's just an awesome program."
Beverly George, a local teacher in her 8th year of volunteering said, "Helping out the less fortunate and I just feel like it's something good comes out of it."
A Sheriff’s office employee, Sally Sparks said, "Just making sure those children have a Christmas."
Another volunteer and local student, Joshua Streater, said "It's an amazing process and I love it."
The children, who range in ages from 3 to 10, will each be receiving about $75 worth of presents. Shoppers worked off of lists from each child, filling-up cart after cart in about a half an hour's time.
When asked how many carts they filled George said, "I filled up three. And I have two grandkids here and they filled up two each."
Sparks replied, "Umm, four, I think, four. Most of them boys, 10 year old boy, 8 year old boy."
Streater added "I only got the chance to fill up one. I wish I could have done more. It feels really good."
Through the night the group formed an assembly line, moving the toys from the toy department through the check-out and then to a waiting truck out front.
the sheriff's office will be distributing the toys to parents later this week.