LEESBURG, Ga. -- One of the harsh realities of law enforcement work is that the innocent families of criminals are affected by those criminals' actions.
Veteran Leesburg Police Chief Charles Moore has had to deal with that reality often enough during his career, and each Christmas he spearheads an effort to bring some holiday cheer to some of the local children whose family environment is less than ideal.
"We started the Lee County Foster Kids Program seven years ago," Moore said. "It was a way to help local kids have a better Christmas. One of the best things about the program is that the kids involved are always so appreciative. It'll break your heart hearing some of their stories, and we always try to do everything we can for them."
Collection boxes have been set up at the Lee County Dollar General stores on U.S. Highway 19 and Philema Road, at Fred's on Philema, at the Cakery in Albany and at both the Lee Sheriff's Office and Leesburg City Hall. Interested persons are asked to drop off toys for kids of all ages or to make cash donations to buy older foster children shoes or clothes.
"I'm not saying that foster parents or officials in the county do a bad job with these kids, but some of them are in foster care because of difficult family situations," Moore said. "It's a hard thing not being with your family during the holidays.
"There are 20 foster kids in Lee County that we're collecting for this year -- that's down from 35 last year, which is a good thing -- and they range from 9 months to 16 years old. We accept toys of any kind, but 16-year-olds are not really interested in toys, so we accept money to buy them shoes, clothes and other things they need."
Moore and LPD officers will deliver the items collected at the various sites to the Department of Family and Children Services on Dec. 21, and officials with the agency will wrap and prepare gifts for the foster children in the county.
"Seeing kids affected by their parents' actions can get to you, I don't care how long you've been in law enforcement," Moore said. "I remember arresting a guy one time, and this little boy about 4 years old came up to me and said, 'Why are you taking my daddy away?' It can break your heart.
"So we try to help kids like that enjoy the holidays. Also, if we have any toys left over and we're aware of other needy children in the community, we try to get the toys to those kids. It's something that makes their holidays a little brighter; I just wish we could do more."
Persons interested in donating to the Lee County Foster Kids Program can drop off toys at any of the participating locations or contact LPD at (229) 759-6464.