It's a tradition that dates back to more than 25 years. The Panama City Beach Police Department provides deserving families with holiday meals each year.
"This is that time of the year when we can give back and make sure every kid wakes up on Christmas morning with gifts under the tree and a good home cooked meal with their family," said Police Chief Drew Whitman.
Early Friday morning, officers and volunteers packed patrol cars with Christmas meals, presents, and even bicycles. All go to families in the Panama City Beach community.
"A lot of families are not well off and have a hard time struggling this time of the year so we try to give back so they can have a good holiday like everybody else in our community," said Whitman.
It's a community efforts and takes months to plan. The Citizens Assisting Police, students attending schools throughout the beach, and businesses help the department by donating dry and canned food, hams, and gifts.
"We really like to take the time and remind the community that we're here for all sorts of different things other than just crowd control, Spring Break, and for traffic," said Officer Shaun Maguadog.
With a ham in hand and presents in tow, Holiday Helpers spent delivered each Christmas baskets until they ensured 160 families will have a warm meal and more than 270 children will have a new toy on Christmas.
"You got those that are just so thankful. I had a nice lady today that just as soon as she saw me walking up, she started tearing up," said Maguadog.
There were tears of joy, hand shakes, and hugs as officers provided their community with a Merrier Christmas this year and for many to come.
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