Fla. officer leads effort to give a better Christmas for families in need

Officer Wayne Jean says the inspiration for his work comes from his own childhood hardships

By Brenno Carillo
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

PORT ORANGE, Fla. — When the Port Orange Police Department started the "Cops for Christmas" initiative in 2020, they were able to help 88 children from families in need.

This year even more requests have come in, and the program is expected to help over 200 kids have a better Christmas.

Port Orange police officer Wayne Jean lead the Cops for Christmas initiative for the second time in 2021.
Port Orange police officer Wayne Jean lead the Cops for Christmas initiative for the second time in 2021. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

For the second year, the police department is partnering with the nonprofit Spouses Backing the Blue by accepting toys and other donations to later distribute to the many kids and families who have asked for help.

Port Orange police officer Wayne Jean is behind the initiative once again in 2021.

An officer in Port Orange for 10 years, Jean started Spouses Backing the Blue in 2017 "as an idea to support law enforcement, their families and the community that we serve as law enforcement officers."

" Times are hard," Jean said. "A lot of people don't have jobs. I feel very grateful and honored for how much Spouses Backing the Blue has grown and how many more people we are able to help."

The partnership with the department began last year. Retired former Port Orange police captain Kimberly Kilpatrick came up with the idea for "Cops for Christmas" and invited Spouses Backing the Blue to help with the initiative.

"I am very grateful to have the (police department) give us this opportunity to help," Jean said. "To me it's just better to give than receive."

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With this year's increase in the number of requests, Jean and the nonprofit have become even more involved, he said. On Saturday, Jean was at the department with other officers wrapping some of the gifts and donations already received.

'It's not just about the gifts'

Speaking at the City Council meeting last week, Jean said his inspiration and love for his work with the nonprofit comes from his own life experience.

"When I was a kid, my mom raised us by herself," Jean said. "We had a lot of times when we didn't know whether food was coming or if Christmas gifts were coming. But we always had love."

Many of the single parents who have asked for help, Jean said, are trying to provide for two or three children on Christmas. One 17-year-old is asking for tools "so he can go to work to help his mom pay the bills," he said.

"A lot of these children are not asking for extravagant gifts," Jean said. "A lot of them are asking for bedding. Last year we provided a family two beds for their children. We have also provided Christmas trees. It's not just about the gifts."

Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette commended Jean and the department for their effort and said he will personally help the initiative.

"The things you guys do just by doing your job to serve this community is tremendous," Burnette said. "This is above and beyond, and we couldn't be more grateful."

Jean said monetary donations directed to Spouses Backing the Blue are also accepted — there is still some help needed to accommodate the larger number of kids this year.

"It's really dear to my heart what we do here," Jean said. "I've served these citizens and I love our citizens. We have a great people."

Residents have until December 17th to drop off unwrapped gifts at the lobby of the Port Orange Police Department at 4545 S Clyde Morris Blvd.

"It's our way of giving back to the community that we serve every day of our career," Jean said.

Those looking for more information about how they can help the initiative can visit www.facebook.com/SpousesBackingtheBlue/ or call 386-871-4055.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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