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Chester County Press

Troopers and Walmart give a happy holiday to five local families

12/24/2015 09:52AM ● By J. Chambless

Peggy De Shields with her four grandchildren, and Trooper Samantha Minnucci.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Christmas came just a bit early for five local families, thanks to troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police Avondale station, who teamed up to help families who might otherwise not have had holiday gifts.
Trooper Samantha Minnucci delivered wrapped presents to several families on Dec. 23, and other families came to the Avondale station to pick up their gifts. The holiday program came together in the past few weeks, but the idea was planted over the summer during the Camp Cadet program.

“With our Camp Cadet program, our goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the youth in our society,” Minnucci said. “Camp Cadet is a free camp for our Chester County residents which allows those that do not have the extra finances to enjoy the same camp as others do. We tell the kids that law enforcement is their friend. Just because they finish the camp doesn't mean that our relationship is over. I contacted a few families from our past Camp Cadet to offer assistance with the holiday with presents for their children, and they all accepted.”

Minnucci got information about sizes and ages of the children in each family, and went on a shopping spree. She had reached out to Walmart, and the company responded with a $1,000 grant. Troopers at the Avondale station, along with the Camp Cadet Board of Directors, donated another $500 to the money given by Walmart.

“I contacted the parents and they all asked for clothes, shampoo – the basic necessities. When they're saying that, you know they really need it,” Minnucci said. “It was sad to hear that, but I knew I was reaching out to the right families. So I went to Walmart for about four hours and got the children new wardrobes. I don't have children yet, so I was wondering, 'Is this cool? What do kids wear nowadays?'” she said, smiling. In the final tally, each child got about seven wrapped presents. There was also a bag of groceries for each family.

Peggy De Shields helps her grandson open presents.

 “As troopers, we are constantly dealing with the public, and we remembered two families from past interactions that could also use some friendly help this Christmas, which brought us up to five families total,” Minnucci said.

“We hope that the presents will not only provide the children with essential items – like clothes, hats and gloves – but also show them that the police care about them,” Minnucci said. “We don’t forget them after we get that 911 phone call or after the week-long summer camp. Every time we have interactions with people, we remember them. It impacts us when we see a child in need. It hits us.”

For Peggy De Shields of Oxford, the Wednesday afternoon visit to the Avondale station was a chance to share some holiday joy with her four grandchildren.

While her grandchildren – ages 12, 9, 3 and 2 -- tore open packages of socks, toothbrushes and clothing and celebrated each one, De Shields said, “We appreciate everything everybody does for us, we really do. There's a lot of underprivileged kids out there who don't get anything. These are my son's kids. I was always taught that if somebody gives you something, take it, and if you can't use it, pass it on to somebody else. At Thanksgiving, we got a complete dinner, but I had already cooked a dinner, so I gave it to somebody else. When I'm blessed, I'm going to bless somebody else.”

De Shields, 69, is studying criminal justice and hopes to get her bachelor's degree after she goes back to school in January. For now, she is teaching her grandchildren to be thankful, and to give back to others. “What I'm trying to teach them is to give back to people. More people need to give. I grew up with one pair of shoes. Now that I have more than one pair, I give to others,” she said.

Minnucci said she hopes to expand the holiday gift-giving program next year. “We wish we could do more,” she said. “I'd love to do a 'Shop With a Cop' with the State Police. I participate in the one with the Coatesville Police, and I love it. They do 65 kids. It would be awesome if we could raise enough money to do our own version of that. That's my goal.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].