MEMBERS OF THE Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office; the Durand Eagles, Riders, and Auxiliary; the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners; and the Byron Masonic Lodge gathered Wednesday, Nov. 29 at the Durand Eagles Aerie to kick off the first annual Shiawassee County Secret Santa gift distribution. The Durand Eagles, Durand Eagles Riders, Durand Eagles Auxiliary and Byron Masons raised nearly $3,000 to purchase Christmas toys for children of Shiawassee County. Sheriff Brian BeGole and his deputies accepted the wrapped toys from the aforementioned service groups on Nov. 29, and he and his deputies will distribute the toys throughout the month of December. They are currently working with churches, schools, and child service organizations to identify Shiawassee County children in need of Christmas gifts.
Some of the notable individuals who gathered for the Secret Santa kick-off included Eagles Riders President Mike Harrington and member Jim Anderson; SCSO deputies Ryan Hall, Lauren Shelly, Lt. Cory Carson; Baker College criminal justice intern Gavin Ackerman; Sheriff Brian BeGole and his wife, Tammy; and Commissioners Brandon Marks and Jeremy Root (who can be seen carrying presents with Sheriff BeGole).
The idea for the Secret Santa distribution belongs to Jim Anderson of the Durand Eagles Riders, who was inspired by a video he saw that showed a police officer pulling over a car and surprising the child in the car with unexpected Christmas gifts. A group of 10 volunteers gathered on Thanksgiving evening to shop for the toys, which were then sorted into groups for toddlers, girls and boys before being wrapped and labeled. The volunteers did their shopping at Walmart in Caledonia Township, and Sheriff BeGole notes that store manager Celeste Beemer was “instrumental” in stretching the volunteers’ resources by giving the group an additional 20 percent off the already discounted Black Friday deals.
Shiawassee County Lieutenant and father Cory Carson was on hand on Nov. 29 to help load the toys into an enclosed trailer for distribution. “This just kinda warms my heart,” said Lt. Carson. “As police officers, we see too many cases of underprivileged or mistreated children, and it can be very frustrating because there is only so much we can do. This gives us a chance to put some smiles on the faces of some of those children. I wish this had been around years ago. Also, it is always nice when we get a chance to interact with members of the community in positive situations. This is really a positive for everyone involved.”
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)