It was a story we’ve heard far too many times in recent years—a father laid off, struggling to provide for his wife and three kids.
The father in this story was laid off in November and had been taking odd jobs just to make ends meet. There wasn’t anything left over after he paid the mortgage to buy toys for Christmas. Then something happened.
Someone called WAY-FM on behalf of the family to submit them for Christmas Prayers With a Cop. Each year, dozens of families meet police officers at Target to pick out presents for their kids while the officers babysit in the cafe.
Officer Tommy Presley met this particular father about two years ago. He related to him because they were both fathers, men who were determined to take care of their families. As they talked, Tommy told the man about the times when he was a young father struggling financially.
“I told him, ‘Listen, I’ve been there and done that,’” Tommy said. “This is what it’s about—people stepping out…This is the way Christ works.”
The two men kept in touch for years. The father got back on his feet, got a new job, and his children never missed a Christmas.
That’s what Christmas Prayers With a Cop is all about.
Everyone needs help every now and then. Maybe it’s financial, maybe it’s not. Christmas Prayers With a Cop steps in to help parents who are struggling get toys for their children. Parents head to Target to get a $100 gift card for each child and a box of food for a full Christmas dinner. Then they set out to shop while their children are watched by the best and brightest of the Huntsville Police Department.
Christmas Prayers With a Cop started in 2006 as the brainchild of Tommy Presley. At the time, Tommy was a chaplain with the Fraternal Order of Police. The group was looking for something to do to give back to the community, so they teamed up with WAY-FM and raised $2,000 the first year.
In 2016, Christmas Prayers With a Cop raised more than $3,000, enough to ensure that 30 children will wake up with presents on Christmas morning.
Each family is submitted to WAY-FM by friends or family members. The radio station vets the submissions to ensure they’re helping parents who really need assistance. Christmas Prayers With a Cop is a part of the station’s bigger Christmas Prayers program that helps families with other needs—medical, dental or even just paying a bill.
While the parents are grateful for the money, this particular program is also an opportunity for the community to see police officers in a positive light.
“The only time a police officer gets called is when there is trouble,” Tommy said. “You are calling a police officer down there to solve a problem. Now, you’re sitting there, talking to a police officer about life…You’re doing things that the kids like to do—whether it is coloring or playing a game. The cop is actually sitting down, and the kids see them as a real person…It’s a positive influence.”
For Tommy Presley and the officers who participate in Christmas Prayers With a Cop, it’s less about presents and more about relating on a human level.
“Everybody doesn’t realize, we’re pretty much all the same,” Tommy said. “It doesn’t matter the skin color, the ethnic background or where you grew up. We all have our struggles.
“We’re just the same person; we just took a path being a servant, and now we’re here trying to help in this situation. We’re not so different.”
The Community Journal applauds these police officers for giving their precious time to these kids, for helping struggling parents make Christmas just a little brighter.