Candy canes and teddy bears also part of annual bike giveaway for Christmas

Salisbury Police officer Ann Cooper hands Vamusa Jabateh a candy cane during Friday’s annual bike giveaway. Vamusa was too young for a bike, but his brother and sister got one. Vamusa got a new teddy bear and a candy cane.
Salisbury Police officer Ann Cooper hands Vamusa Jabateh a candy cane during Friday’s annual bike giveaway. Vamusa was too young for a bike, but his brother and sister got one. Vamusa got a new teddy bear and a candy cane.

On a warm Friday morning, it was hard to tell who was more excited about receiving a bicycle, Madonna Rivers, or her children — Makhi, 10, and Garrie, 8, who received them through Gerry Wood Auto Center and the Salisbury Police giveaway.

“It’s a blessing because with my financial circumstances, I’m not able to,” she said.

Rivers, her two boys, and daughter V’Honii Watkins, 11 months, met Salisbury Police officer Ann Cooper and Capt. Shelia Lingle outside their Clancy Hills Apartment.

Lingle’s husband, Todd, and their daughters, Allison and Anna, also helped deliver bicycles.

“It’s a blessing to have people out here that have a heart to helping families bring a smile to their child’s face,” Rivers said.

She said it made her feel good to see her children receive the bikes.

“I just filled out the paper. I didn’t think it would happen,” she said.

Gerry Wood Auto Center provides the bicycles and the Salisbury Police Department and other volunteers distribute them to children. It’s the 12th year the Salisbury Police Department has partnered with the car dealership. This year, organizers gave away 125 bicycles, 100 teddy bears to children who were too young for bikes and more than 1,000 candy canes.

“The reason we do this is so at-risk children can see police in a positive light. Everyone of these police officers, police cadets and chaplains are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts,” said Brenda Wood.

Police Chief Rory Collins said his department couldn’t do the giveaway without Gerry and Brenda Wood.

“The thing that is the most important to us is we have the ability to put a smile on some children’s faces who would not get a present for Christmas,” Collins said.

He said it’s also an opportunity for the department to show they care. It kicks off the holiday season for many of the officers and their families who volunteer to distribute the bikes.

Mahisela Kromah and her husband, B.J., were also happy to see their children receive bicycles. B.J. was laid off from Freightliner seven months ago, Mahisela said, and the children would not have otherwise received gifts. The couple’s children — Vamala, 6, Makagebh, 4, and Vamusa, received bikes. The family is originally from Liberia, West Africa. The couple didn’t tell the children they were getting bikes, but decided to surprise them.

“This has made me and my kids happy,” she said.

Luis and Lubia Aguirre’s children — Ashley, 10, Darwin, 7, Edwin, 5, and Luis, 3 — all received bicycles. The parents were just as excited as the children, who immediately jumped on the bicycles.

Luis and Lubia were grateful to everyone who had a hand in providing the bicycles and they thanked everyone who delivered them

It was the first year that Anna Lingle volunteered to help with the giveaway.

“I have so much. These kids barely have anything. I like doing it,” said Anna, 17.

Her sister, Allison, 14, has volunteered for the last three years.

“It makes you feel good knowing these kids will get new bikes,” she said.

Allison said she returns every year to volunteer because she likes to see the smiles on the children’s faces and likes to see them happy.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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