City employees dedicate their professional expertise to bettering the community, but that commitment to public service has gone far beyond regular work duties when it comes to the holiday season. For more than 30 years, a handful of Lakewood Police Department employees have provided help to senior citizens in need through the Caring by Sharing program they created all on their own.

It started back in the early 1980s when a police dispatcher came up with the idea of providing food baskets during the holidays to those struggling with having enough food, and she took the initiative to put the baskets together and deliver them with the help of other employees. That spirit of compassion has continued ever since, led by the dedication and goodwill of police department employees. This year, the program will deliver 40 care packages to senior citizen residences just before the holidays, and the employees’ personal efforts have gone even deeper with the addition of hand-tied fleece blankets.

“The blankets were made by department volunteers, department employees and the Caring by Sharing members,” says Business Specialist Therese Megargee.

Megargee and fellow Police Department staff members Pam Persch, Lisa Clark and Donna Becker have kept the program thriving as a way to reach residents they know can sometimes be too easily forgotten.

The baskets and blankets will be delivered to residents in the City Scape, Creekside, Eaton Terrace and Willow Glen senior living communities. Resident managers at each of the facilities provide recommendations for those to receive a basket. “If a senior receives a basket, we keep that same senior on the list every year unless their circumstances change,” Megargee explains. “There are seniors on our list that have been receiving a basket every year since they were first added.”

Business Support Specialist Lisa Clark says the program is really all about being thoughtful. “Along with giving the food baskets, we purchase a small gift for each recipient, and our city greenhouse personnel grow poinsettia plants and deliver them to us prior to the boxes being delivered to the seniors.”

While there is a holiday focus, Caring by Sharing is a year-round endeavor. In 2017, the program has donated $1,000 each to the Ralston House, which advocates for and provides services to abused children, and the Action Center, which provides food and other services for addressing basic human needs and pathways to self-sufficiency for Jefferson County residents and the homeless. The department also joined Mayor Adam Paul’s drive to collect socks and food as part of the metrowide Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in November for donation to the Action Center.

Caring by Sharing also received the proceeds from this year’s Cops that Cook fundraiser, and it regularly organizes a fundraiser for City employees to buy a hot dog lunch grilled on the Civic Center plaza to raise money for the food baskets and gifts for the seniors. The team will ask City employees for cash donations on Dec. 12, and the public can make a donation at any time at Lakewood.org/CaringbySharing.

Through the years, the program has also donated new items such backpacks and school supplies to the Action Center to support families with children in school, Clark notes. “We have also made donations to people in need – furnace repairs, a child with cancer, the homeless and veterans,” she adds.

The only thing that has changed over the years is the name of the program. Once named Operation Santa Claus, a City employee contest resulted in the name change to Caring by Sharing in 2007.