CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Managing to put toys under the tree for the kids and still pay bills can be a financial burden. But, the Carbondale Police Department likes to help out during the holiday season.
The Carbondale Police Department Community Christmas Store is an annual event conducted by the Carbondale Police Department's Victims' Advocate with help from the Victims' Advocates of Jackson County.
"Every little bit helps," said Lopez. "I have a good job but I still need help. I can't afford to do myself so, you know, I pay my bills. And, I mean you know it's really helping and we all need help."
Norma Lopez lives and works in Carbondale, but could use some assistance in buying Christmas gifts for her grandchildren.
The event, now in its 19th year provides gifts and toys at reduced costs to the families of 125 children for at-risk or underprivileged families residing in Carbondale.
They have also collected a new winter coat for each child this year.
"This is one of my favorite things to do - we, like I said - have been doing this for 19 years in some sort of variation and we found that this was the best way to reach the most children," Sgt. Amber Ronketto with Carbondale Police said.
Since the late 1990s, Carbondale police have been serving families with children between the ages of one to eight.
A family is able to buy three gifts per child at the reduced price of $2 a piece.
"They'll get to select their three gifts, they'll get to have them gift wrapped if they like, and then they will be able to select a coat from our coats for kids drive that will be free," Ronketto said.
Lopez, who has been coming all 19 years, praised the program.
"It's a good program," she said. "It's a lot of help."
"It could be any of us," Ronketto said. "I mean we're all probably just a couple paychecks away from needing some help. You can tell that people are happy to be receiving some help and very grateful for it."
All the money the police collected goes right back into the fund for next year's presents.
They are still accepting donations of new toys and clothes.