Police officers bring smiles to 118 youngsters getting new bikes

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 23, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — As officers rolled the bicycles into view on Latasha Wilks’ driveway, she could only hug her kids and cry.
For the single mother of three, the children’s bikes signaled hope.
“This is a blessing,” Wilks said. “I’m just so grateful.”
Her children 15-year-old Chad Wilks, 8-year-old Keshaun Stoner and 7-year-old Domanae Wilks peered around the doorway as Salisbury Police officers Greg Beam and Brian Stallings sat the new bikes on kickstands in front of the home Friday morning.
Wilks’ was one of about 65 families that received bikes this year, according to the event’s chief organizer Wiley Lamm.
Officers met at Gerry Wood Auto on Jake Alexander Boulevard around 8 a.m. and began loading the bikes into trucks and trailers.
Gerry and Brenda Wood, who started the program 10 years ago when Mark Wilhelm was Salisbury’s police chief, helped officers with coordinating bike deliveries Friday morning.
Wood said the 118 bikes, teddy bears and candy canes were supplied based on a budget they compiled earlier this year.
“The idea behind it is the children who have been identified by Social Services and through the Police Department,” Wood said. “They identify the recipients. We simply give them what they need.”
Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins, who has continued the program since taking over the department in 2009, said it serves two purposes: providing for needy families during the holidays and building relationships with at-risk youth in the community.
The kids in this program “get a gift, but even more than that, they get a gift from a police officer and have an interaction with a police officer that they would not have normally had.” Collins said. “It gives us a chance to help us build trust with our youth for the future.”
Wilks, a cancer survivor who said her son has speech and hearing impairments, said the program allowed her to stop worrying about whether her kids will smile on Christmas Day.
“I think that is the main thing they wanted this year,” she said. “I know that this is a blessing from God.”
Now, she said, she’s worrying about how she’ll keep the bikes under the tree until Christmas morning.