Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:04 AM
Eric DeRouen of Rea3l Photos & Videos
Published on: Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Alexis Goring, Special to The Sentinel
Alexis A. Goring
Special to The Sentinel
Sometimes Santa comes in the form of a retired police officer. Kenneth Goodwin, who spent 21 years as a corporal officer for the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), has a heart for helping children in need. So he, along with community activist Elsie Jacobs, created the Suitland Community Annual Christmas Event for Deserving Families where he treated families in need at the Suitland Elementary School to a holiday dinner and free gifts of warm coats, bicycles, boots and toys as an early Christmas gift.
This annual event began in 2007, and takes place inside of Suitland Elementary School on the first Tuesday of every December.
“Giving back? I don’t look at it like that,” said Goodwin when asked if it’s about giving back to the community. “I just think of it as the right thing to do. It’s very humbling for the families who are receiving. It’s also very humbling for people who are giving.”
Elsie Jacobs, president of the Suitland Action Team and sponsor of this holiday event, shared the story behind the annual giving.
“What happened was that Officer Goodwin was our community officer at the time and this was back at the time when young people were getting shot and all this other stuff. So Goodwin and I talked and said there’s a lot of needy families right around here,” said Jacobs. “By me working in the high school, I knew what was going on in the community. So I said, ‘We need to come up with a plan to do something to help these families.’ So Goodwin went out in Virginia and found a company who donated so many brand new toys and from that I said ‘Okay, toys are okay but we need to do something else.”
Jacobs decided to visit Kevin Sills, president of the Mid Atlantic Real Estate Investments, to ask if he could buy coats and shoes for the children in the community to which Sills agreed with one request—Jacobs had to provide a list of names of the children in need.
“So I had officers go to the elementary school and had the counselors give me a list of the kids and their coat and shoe size,” said Jacobs. “So that’s how it got started. Now I have so many community partners. I’ve got about 15 or 16 community partners who donate things for these kids.”
The community partners include Mid Atlantic Real Estate Investments of which Sills is president, the police department, the sheriff department, and county council member Karen Toles.
Every year, Sills and his staffers work like Santa’s elves to make it a Merry Christmas for the kids through their purchase of the coats and shoes in just the right size for each child.
“My staff does just about the majority of going out and shopping…They’re the hardest working people involved,” said Sills. “Basically all I do is pay for it and transport it over there.”
The order numbers for these items can be as low as 40 or 50 or as high as 100 because the number of children in need differs every year. There are no limitations to the generosity of Sills and no budget. He allows his staff to they just go and get the coats from any store whether it’s high-end or low-end retail, it doesn’t matter to Sills.
“It’s whatever it costs. We don’t have a budget because there’s no way to set budget. It’s different every year,” he said. “…So we spend whatever we need to spend to get it done.”
After the shopping is done, Sills piles the bags of gifts for the children in his car each year and delivers it in person, even if it means making two trips.
At the close of the event each year, Goodwin hopes the children will feel,
“That they do matter and someone else is thinking of them…Someone else considers them as important, not just the kids but also the parent too.”