Twas nine days before Christmas and all through Wayne County houses, some families expected few or no gifts until Sheriff Napoleon dispelled such myths.” While the aforementioned is an altered beginning from the famous “Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem written in the early 19th century, it demonstrates today’s deep passion and commitment that Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has for helping families most in need during this joyous time of the year. Since 2009, Napoleon has made sure that many children and families experiencing economic hardships would have Christmas presents. On Saturday, Dec. 16, just nine days before Christmas, Napoleon continued the tradition as he and more than 25 Wayne County deputies (“deputized elves”) put smiles on the faces of children and families, just in time for the holidays. At Meijer, located at 21431 Grand River on the city’s west side, more than 300 children and 90 families shopped for gifts and groceries at the giant store for approximately four hours beginning at 10:00 a.m.
According to Kelly Miner, communication director for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, each child received a $200 gift card to shop for presents at Meijer. In addition, a $75 grocery voucher was given to selected families to use in the store to purchase food for that special Christmas meal. Miner said all Wayne County families were pre-selected by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) chaplain and Wayne County commissioners. “Oh my God, out of all the things that I do during the course of the year, this is absolutely my favorite event,” Napoleon said emphatically between greeting and taking pictures with the children and families. “We have a lot of kids here who have been able to come to Meijer today to pick out gifts that will make their Christmas just that much brighter.”Napoleon explained that for the first six years of facilitating this special event, he, his deputies and other volunteers purchased gifts and delivered them to children throughout the county. However, Napoleon said for past three years, the process has changed. “Because we had to sort of guess at what children really wanted for Christ-mas, I thought it would be better if I could find a location that would allow the children to pick out what they wanted,” Napoleon said. “So Meijer and so many sponsors and volunteers, included my deputies, stepped up for the children and families in need.” As he held up a thank you card signed by children, Napoleon continued.
“The kids and parents are so appreciative, They keep telling me that they didn’t know that the police or sheriff did things like this. However, what we did today at Meijer is a part of our community outreach efforts, where young people get to see the softer side of policing. They get to see that we are human beings and we really care about them.” “This event means a lot to me and my three children,” said Monique Lewis, a Detroiter, as she waited in the checkout line with two shopping carts filled with gifts and groceries “This time of the year, you don’t necessarily have the money to be able to provide your children with everything that they want. So this make me happy when I see the smiles on my kid’s faces. Sheriff Napoleon is a blessing to us and to so many other families here today.”Monique’s oldest daughter, Jada, 11, was equally thankful.“This has made me so happy because a lot of people can’t afford to buy their children lots of presents,” said Jada, a 6th grader at Detroit Enterprise Academy, who waited in line with brother, Josiah, 5, and sister, Jaysie, 2. “Thank you so very much, Sheriff Napoleon, because what you and your deputies have done today is make sure that many children have gifts and will be happy on Christmas Day.” A humbled Napoleon was touched by such words of appreciation.“Christmas is a very difficult and challenging time of the year for many families,” said the native Detroiter.
“So during my tenure as Wayne County Sheriff, I look forward to continuing to do this each year.” After this year’s giveaway event had concluded, and parents and their children left Meijer with gifts, groceries, laugher and joy, the following ending of the 185yearold poem, “Twas The Night Before Christmas” poem — with a twist — could easily have described how Sheriff Benny Napoleon felt: “As a smiling Sheriff Napoleon sprang to his awaiting driver and car, he gave nods of approval to deputies parked not far. And when his car was ready to drive out of sight, Sheriff Napoleon knew in his heart what he had done was so right. And as the sheriff’s car began leaving the parking lot, some believe he was shouting with a glee of might, Merry Christmas to all, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”