Armed with Christmas cheer
Peering out into the dark of the night from her home, Maria Terrones and her three young children were confused by the sight of several police officers, dressed in full camouflage and gear, standing in their front yard.
Her first thought was that someone in her neighborhood was in trouble, said Terrones, who added she was a little frightened.
But something unusual about the officers made her think they weren’t there for official business.
What gave it away?
The white Santa Claus beards, said Terrones, a single mother.
On Monday, the Grant County Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team, joined by several people representing the local law enforcement community, converged on Terrones’ home on J Street Southwest for a Christmas surprise.
Their holiday mission was called “A Rest Warrants,” and Terrones’ home was their final surprise warrant served that day. They stopped earlier at two homes in Moses Lake.
Each of the families shared a similar initial reaction to seeing the officers, armed with Christmas gifts and food, said Detective Matt Messer of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
“They’re awestruck,” Messer said. “They don’t know what to say.”
Messer instigated the A Rest Warrants event only a week ago after seeing a viral video on the Internet where police officers in Michigan gave away presents during traffic stops to unsuspecting citizens.
Messer wanted to do something similar for local families in need of a brighter Christmas and thought INET could pull it off.
INET works to reduce drug availability and trafficking in Grant County. Supervised by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, it includes detectives from the sheriff’s office, the Moses Lake and Quincy police departments, and the Washington State Patrol.
In only a week, officers raised $5,000 in cash and donations from 70 businesses and individuals in the law enforcement community.
On Monday, about 20 people filled the living room of Terrones’ small home. Terrones held her 2-year-old daughter Itzel while her sons, Moses, 6, and Noe, 4, stood next to her with grins on their faces. An excited Noe later climbed into Messer’s arms.
Grant County Superior Court Judge John Knodell, a Quincy resident, read from a proclamation. The family was identified as a “worthy” family that has “bravely struggled with life’s challenges,” Knodell read.
“This brightens my Christmas quite a bit,” Knodell said later. “I think it’s a reminder that really we are all here to serve the public.”
Among the gifts for the family were a gas card and car wash, a traditional ham dinner, three months of power covered by Grant PUD, gift cards for a manicure and pedicure for Terrones and presents for the children.
Included in the children’s presents were three small bikes, donated by the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598 of Eastern Washington and put together by the Quincy Police Department and Grant County Fire District No. 3. Officers also decorated the outside of the home and delivered a pepperoni pizza for the family.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” said Quincy Police Chief Bob Heimbach, who was joined by his family.
The night also was an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to shine a light on the good work officers are doing, Heimbach added.
“This gives people a chance to see us in a different light,” he said. “We now have four fans of the police.”
Christmas for the family was going to be sparse this year, said Terrones, speaking through a translator. She did not have the money to buy gifts for her children but was thanking God for her and her children’s good health.
Terrones described the evening as “amazing” and thanked the officers and everyone who came to her home.
Messer said he hopes the children touched by the day’s events realize in the future the officers are there for them.
“It’s been a really fun day,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of that (INET) team and those guys. It’s humbling.”
— By Jill FitzSimmons, email@example.com