Tiger Pride: Santa’s elves help kids in need.

December 9, 2021

Tiger Pride: Santa’s elves help kids in need.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

NEW ERA — Student council members at New Era Elementary School took on the role of Santa’s elves this week when they wrapped presents for the Roy’s Kids organization.

The charitable program was launched in 1994 by Roy Strait, who is the New Era police chief and a retired Oceana County sheriff’s deputy. Strait began the program as an outreach activity from his role as school liaison.

The New Era fourth and fifth graders gathered in the school gym to wrap the gifts that will be distributed to local less fortunate families this Christmas.

Forty Oceana County families received Christmas gifts from local law enforcement officers and community members last year thanks to the program. Strait expects to help about the same amount of families this year.

Santa Claus is on hand to help officers deliver gifts to the homes in police cars, which is normally done the Saturday morning before Christmas.

Strait has been the “real Santa” behind this project, and he credits his wife Nancy for being his dedicated Mrs. Claus. “She coordinates it all,” he said.

“It’s just hard to explain the joy we all feel, seeing the children looking out the window when the squad car pulls up and Santa gets out. I like the police officers to be friends with the kids.”

This year, officers from the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and New Era, Shelby and Hart police departments will distribute gifts. Ferry Township firefighters will also be involved, said Strait.

Retired Oceana County Sheriff Bob Farber is Strait’s right-hand man with the project. Strait also credits John Heykoop for his many years of assistance and providing a storage unit to house the many gifts.

Deb’s Cafe of Shelby generously provides most of the food donations to the families so they can have a delicious Christmas meal.

Local women knit hats and mittens to give to the children.

Both Farber and Strait feel that the positive reinforcement and role models of the law enforcement officials adds a unique element to the program.

The spirit of giving doesn’t end when the holidays are over, however. “Christmas is a big deal, but during the year, if a kid needs something, we get it for them.”

Strait said he is fortunate that he grew up not having to worry about going without food and necessities. So, he feels obligated to help the kids who are not as lucky as he was as a child. “I always had a good family life, and my parents were perfect. We weren’t rich, but we always had enough to eat and have a decent Christmas.”

If anyone would like to donate or help with the program, they can text Strait at 231-578-7464.

“I just want to thank the community,” he said.

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  • Photos contributed by Chelsea Hayes

 

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