NANTICOKE — One local organization is trying to help area police departments develop better relations with the children in the communities they serve.
On Sunday, the Valley with a Heart volunteer organization delivered toys to area police departments during an event at West Side Park in Nanticoke. The departments will keep the toys in their cars and hand them out to children they come across.
“Having a 7-year-old daughter, I think it’s very important to have the community and little kids reach out,” Allison Barletta, vice president of the Hazleton City Council, said. “Seeing the police, they see the lights and the uniform can be intimidating. But having officers reach out give them a toy and speak with them will really help our kids out.”
Valley with a Heart President Rick Temerantz agreed.
“This is our fourth year holding this event,” Temerantz said. “The goal of this is if an officer encounters a child in need, and hands the child a toy it tends to calm them down a little.”
These toys also serve as a form of public relations for the police departments.
“In today’s age, the cops don’t get the respect they deserve,” Temerantz said. “They are fathers and mothers. They know what it’s like to see a crying child and how to comfort that child. Maybe they won’t see a cop as a threat, and they will remember later in life when a cop helped them out.”
The Valley with a Heart’s main focus is raising money to help families of sick children in the Wyoming Valley.
“In the 18 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve raised over half a million dollars for families with sick children,” Temerantz said. “Whether it be gas cards, medical bills or anything to make a family’s life easier.”
Temerantz encourages people to check out www.valleywithaheart.com or check the group’s Facebook page for updates.
“We are always looking for corporate sponsors or donations,” Temerantz said. “Most importantly, 100 percent of the money raised by his organization is given back to families in need.”
Officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, Hazleton City Police and Swoyersville were in attendance at the event.
Toys were also delivered to departments from Wilkes-Barre, Edwardsville, Larksville and the Pennsylvania State Police Hazleton barracks.
“I am honored that Valley with a Heart reached out to us and the kids in Hazleton City,” Barletta said. “Right now we are a distressed city, so we benefit from having them reach out to us, and the police can hold these toys in their car and distribute them to a kid in need.
“I’ve been attending their events for the past three years, and I truly appreciate what they do for the surrounding communities and Luzerne County.”
Swoyersville Mayor Chris Concert echoed Barletta when it came to the importance of Valley with a Heart’s event.
“Not only am I the mayor but I’m also a member of Valley with a Heart,” Concert said. “It’s really important to foster a great relationship between children and police.”