For immediate release - December 2, 2011
Leesburg Police Officers Assemble Biggest Year of Holiday Bikes for Children
Leesburg Police Department officers and volunteers are working harder than Santa’s elves this holiday season to provide their largest-ever collection of new bicycles to disadvantaged children.
The department spent the past year collecting donations from businesses and residents for this very special program. Local schools helped to identify deserving families and children. Police representatives then set out with their shopping list, braving long lines and mobs of busy shoppers to take advantage of Black Friday sales Nov. 25 at the Oxford Wal-Mart supercenter.
That’s just part of their monumental work – a team of six people spent four days this week unpacking stacks of boxes and assembling more than 80 bicycles of all sizes, styles and colors. “I’ve been helping with this for 18 years – we started back then by giving out lost or confiscated bikes that we had to clean up with steel wool and brushes,” said police Sergeant Allen Carter. “It’s very rewarding.”
The department now purchases all new bikes for children with support from financial donations. Wal-Mart donated $1,500 this year, and Amscot contributed safety helmets.
Each child will receive a bike and a helmet – in some cases, other gifts are provided as well. Police officers will deliver the bikes later this month in time for the holidays.
“It’s enjoyable giving to kids who really deserve it,” said Andy Lucchini, a volunteer with the department’s Citizens on Patrol program.
Senior Officer Mike Howard heads up the bike giveaway and also conducts five bicycle safety events each year for children: “I can’t think of anything in my career that gives me any more joy than this.”
The officers and volunteers – many of them longtime parents with plenty of holiday toy assembly patience – can build a single bicycle in about 20 minutes depending on the model. The garage at the police department now resembles a large toy shop filled with bicycles, helmets and assorted toys.
In addition to the bike giveaway, the Leesburg Police Department also will join other law enforcement agencies on Dec. 10 for the annual Shop with a Cop at the Wal-Mart supercenter at 1450 Johns Lake Road in Clermont. Officers will help to escort pre-designated children around the store to purchase toys and other items they want most for the holiday.
Leesburg is a progressive city of more than 20,000 residents in northwest Lake County. The city government serves twice as many people with its electric, gas, water, wastewater and fiber-optic public utilities. Leesburg also is a central hub for commerce, attracting 50,000 people to work each weekday.