• Alyssa Collins

Community Spreads Joy Through Heartwarming Event

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Published in the Lockport Legend

The Lockport Police and Fire Departments celebrated the holiday season by giving back to the community with this year’s Lockport Love event on Saturday, Dec. 14.

At 9 a.m., local police officers, firefighters and family liaisons pulled up to the American Legion Post 18, located at 15052 Archer Ave, to enjoy a complimentary breakfast while learning about the families involved in this year’s initiative. 16 families throughout the Lockport area were nominated and chosen to receive gifts and support through Lockport Love. A family liaison was assigned to each family, and while many wanted to remain private, six families welcomed the parade of police cars and fire trucks that drove throughout the neighborhood to deliver gifts and spread holiday cheer.

“16 families is the most we’ve ever had, and we have a good economy right now. You never know what a family might be going through,” said Police Chief Terry Lemming, who was a part of the team that spearheaded this initiative six years ago. “These are your neighbors. Someone right next door to you might be having trouble that you don’t even know about.”

For one family liaison, this was more true than ever. Ron and Melissa Huff along with their children took on a family of five who have fallen on hard times. In 2017 they had a furnace fire, the mother was diagnosed with major health conditions and the dad took on a part-time job to help pay for some of the medical expenses. In September of this year, the family experienced another hardship - a leak in the roof that flooded their bedroom.

“After my initial phone call with the mom, I came to find out she was my daughters dance teacher two years ago,” said Melissa Huff. “You never know who this is going to affect.”

Chief Lemming took a few moments before the parade to discuss two families who would not have received help without the support of local businesses. The two families were in need of significant car repair and Sharon Fiedler, owner of Tuffy Auto Service Center, was able to get donations from her suppliers to donate the labor and fix the two cars. This was a significant break for one of the families whose child is in need of regular medical attention, and the family often travels to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. Without a car this wouldn’t be possible, said Chief Lemming.

This year the Lockport Love initiative received their biggest donation to date from the United SERTOMA organization who presented a $2,500 check to help pay for the gifts. Local business owner, Merv Nolte, also presented a donation to the Lockport Love team.

“I really do like being a part of Lockport Love,” said Nolte. “It’s really nice to see that people are giving back to the community. I’ve seen it grow a lot too which has been really amazing.”

Shortly after the parade, police officers congregated at the local Walmart for the annual shop with a cop event. 20 underprivileged children were matched with a Lockport police officer to walk through Walmart picking out toys, clothes, art supplies and various holiday gifts. Local volunteers wrapped up some of the items for the children to open on Christmas morning.

Many of these families were nominated by the local school districts as a way to provide help throughout the holiday season, and the families were overjoyed. Jessica Perez, whose son was excited to pick out a new set of Nerf guns, was pleased to see the positive interaction between the children and police officers. It’s not a program that she sees many other cities doing, she said. Some of the families stopped to pose for pictures with the police officers to document the big smiles plastered on all the children’s faces.

“It’s very heartwarming to know that people are willing to help and give these kids a good Christmas,” said Ashley Smith whose daughter participated in the shop with a cop event. “It’s rough out there and I work full-time and I still have a rough time.”

The full day of events ended with a lunch at Coom’s Corner, located at 1225 E 9th St, where police officers and the families were able to gather around for a complimentary meal. Last year, Ron Coomer, Chicago Cubs broadcaster and former Cubs player passed out signed baseballs to each of the kids. Unfortunately, Coomer was unable to be there this year, but the police and families enjoyed his donation of the space and the food.

While Lockport Love does the majority of their giving during the holiday season, they are always looking to help local families. BJ Ferry, treasurer for Lockport Love, reiterated to the group that donations are always welcome and no donation is too small. The best way to help is to send a donation or gift card to Lockport Love at 1212 Farrell Rd, said Ferry.

“Lockport Love is neighbors helping neighbors. That's all we are,” said Chief Lemming.

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