Many volunteers and organizations in Port Orange have stepped up to make sure residents have a merry Christmas.
After 15 Christmases of volunteering with the Port Orange Police Department, Sharron Ward and Kathy Burns have gotten packing up food and toys for local families down to a science.
Aisles of tables with canned goods and non-perishable food items fill the Police Department. Ward and Burns have made a production line with eager volunteers and rolling desk chairs. Each chair is pushed up and down the aisles as the volunteers fill paper sacks with groceries and toys for Port Orange families in need.
Ward remembers the early days of the drive 15 years ago.
"It was awful," Ward said. "Everything we learned, we learned the hard way."
She remembers going to Walmart with Burns and shopping for four hours, and, then having to bring everything back to the old police station, located on Dunlawton Avenue. Collecting and sorting everything was a big job for the two of them. They are thankful for all of the volunteers and organizations that have joined them throughout the years to help it evolve into a community effort.
"It's really grown over the years," Ward said.
Lori Henderson, POPD victim advocate coordinator, oversees the Christmas drive. The entire effort is volunteer run, but she schedules dates and handles the logistics.
"These ladies have been doing this for even longer than I have been here," Henderson said. "The Christmas program — they have this down. I do whatever they tell me."
In October, applications are sent out to the counselors at each of the Port Orange schools. Families in need can apply for assistance to receive food, clothing, shoes and toys. They are able to submit a wish list with the children's clothing and shoe sizes. Victims of domestic violence in Port Orange can also apply.
The clothing and shoes are purchased through the victim advocate budget, and many local organizations and residents partner to supply POPD's Christmas drive.
The toys are provided by Operation Changing Lives, Karl "Santa" Mandl and The Margarita Society of Volusia County. The Police Athletic League also donated 30 bikes.
In addition, the city puts on a food drive in the community, but the bulk of the food collected was from the Crane Lakes subdivision's food drive, organized by Barbara Hawkins. The Community Christmas Club of Halifax also donated Christmas food boxes for each family. The voluntary police transported all of the donated food from Crane Lakes and the Community Christmas Club.