North Bend deputies and troopers prepare for Operation Santa Claus

North Bend law-enforcement officers will turn their patrol cars into sleighs this week when they embark on one of their most important missions of the year, Operation Santa Claus.

The event, in its 10th year, is a joint effort between the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend Substation and the North Bend Washington State Patrol Detachment that gives families in their service area food and gifts that they might not receive otherwise. It's also a chance for local officers to show that law enforcement isn't solely based on punishing those who have broken the rules.

"In most cases when we have to contact people it's usually because of an unpleasant event," said North Bend Substation Commander Sgt. Grant Stewart. "This gives us a chance once a year to play Santa Claus. When we knock on the door it's not because [they] called or need us to be there, it's because we want to be there and we've got something to give them."

Through Dec. 16, deputies and troopers will be collecting food and toys to deliver, via law-enforcement sleighs, to local families that have been identified from the officers on daily patrols or by persons who have contacted the departments.

North Bend Substation Office Manager Judy Leonard said Operation Santa Claus usually helps out about 25 families. Leonard explained that officers make sure each family receives at least one box of food in addition to gifts for their children.

Food staples, such as flour, sugar, tuna and spaghetti, are among the needed items, Leonard said, but all nonperishable items are accepted. Cash donations also are welcome.

Leonard said once the gifts and food donations are itemized, the department turns to the cash donations to complete the boxes.

"If there are enough [cash] funds left over, we go grocery shopping or get the kids a little something extra," Leonard said.

Stewart said not only do families receive a little extra help through the program, but it also gives officers a warm feeling during the holidays.

"It gives us an opportunity to feel appreciated, which doesn't happen too often," said Stewart.

Donations of canned, nonperishable food items and wrapped toys marked with the age and sex of the child for which they are appropriate are being accepted at the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend Substation, located at 1550 Boalch Ave. N.W. If you are unable to deliver the items, deputies or troopers will pick them up.

To make a cash donation, visit Bank of America's North Bend branch at 128 Bendigo Blvd. N., and tell them you'd like to do so. The nonprofit account is set up under the name of Operation Santa Claus.

For information or to apply as a family in need, call Leonard or Kym Smith at the North Bend Substation, (425) 888-4433.

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