MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department is working to make this Christmas a little merrier and brighter for several area kids. Some deputies took their day off as a chance to not only give back but build trust within the community.
Christmas came early for several kids in the Harlem School District as they got to go on a special shopping spree.
"It's really heartwarming to see this and I love the community involvement with the department,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.
Dozens of deputies patrol the aisles of Target and Meijer as they take kids around to pick out Christmas gifts.
"They love it, and they're a little shy, you know I'm sure that they have these police officers and they're in uniform and they're like wow, you know, and they're like can I get this or can I get that,” said Sheriff Caruana.
Each kid received a $50 gift card that they could spend on all kinds of toys. Many families say they're thankful for the opportunity that allows their children to get some gifts this holiday season while getting to know some of their local heroes.
"It was a great experience, you know. They go shopping with a cop, they actually get to see and spend time with an officer that protects and serves our community,” said Rob March, whose kids got to shop with some cops.
“I think it develops that relationship, especially when they're young. We're not the bad guys, we are involved in the community and if you need anything you can come to us. And maybe they'll even go into law enforcement themselves someday, you never know. We're developing and mentoring the next generation,” said Sheriff Caruana.
The Sheriff's Department also helped to fill a bus with toys, food, and clothing that will be donated to students in the Harlem School District that are in need during the holiday season.