Police hand out toys to children

ALBANY -- Groggy as any night shift worker would be, Walter Braswell answered his door Saturday morning.

"Who is it?" Braswell said.

He got an answer that wasn't quite credible to him.

"It is the Albany Police Department."

Braswell, a Dougherty County employee didn't get it. What would the police want with him?

"Hi. I'm Chief Proctor. This is a good thing," Albany Police Chief Proctor said to a closed door. "We are here to recognize your family and share some good tidings."

More puzzled than ever, pajama-clad Braswell, 36, opened his door to Proctor, Deputy Chief Nathaniel Clark, at least two other uniformed officers, the television media and unsettling Christmas greetings.

The police went to the Braswell home in East Albany off Georgetown Road with Christmas toys and food for the single father's four children. It was part of an 11-house surprise gift-giving event to help the community started by Clark.

"We realize in today's society many citizens will be faced with a bleak Christmas due to the staggering economy," Clark said, "which encompasses loss of jobs, home foreclosure and poverty."

To bring the community, no matter their means together, Clark initiated "There is Joy in a Toy" and "A Brighter Day" programs. Officers donated money to purchase toys and food for selected families.

The families were selected by officers who knew their community, Clark said. Officers in their respective districts know the good people who might have many mouths to feed and either only one paycheck or no paycheck because the officers are part of their community, he added.

Part of the community effort, about six Albany Police Americorps members participated in the gift giving. Americorps members are typically students or recent graduates earning money for their college tuition.

"I like that I can help out and give back to the community," said Stephanie Dennard, 25, an Albany resident and criminal justice student at Darton College.

"I'm really glad that we can get food and toys to children."

The Braswell children, Antonio, 13, Yahnis, 10, Yolanda, 7 and Yamilah, 6, declined to be interviewed. Apparently, they were too busy laughing, unpacking gifts and passing wrapped presents to each other.

Still waking up, their father still seemed a little foggy.

"I'm overwhelmed. I don't understand," Braswell said. "It just gets me that someone would have me in their thoughts like this. That's really very nice, very nice."

Meanwhile, some uniformed elves drove off in a white van to make more deliveries.