Donated stuffed bears, quilts help comfort children

Argen Duncan

Community donations of stuffed toy animals and handmade quilts have been helping local law enforcement officers comfort children in traumatic situations for years.

Police officers and deputies carry the items in their cars.

Sgt. Charlie Smart of the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office estimated he hands out 10 to 15 stuffed animals per year.

“Those are wonderful,” he said. “They really help.”

Portales Police Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry said local quilter Joyce Welch has been bringing quilts she and members of her homemakers club have made to the department for about a year. Linda Brown of Portales has donated stuffed animals to Portales police for multiple years.

At the sheriff’s office, donations of stuffed animals have come in from a variety of organizations and individuals, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, Hartley House, churches and more, said Chief Deputy Malin Parker.

Berry said city police officers give quilts to children going into foster care and stuffed animals to children in such situations as having been in wrecks, witnessed crimes or come to the police department with a relative who needed to make statement.

“Between the quilts and the teddy bears, we have enough to try to make the kids a little more at ease dealing with some pretty intense situations,” he said.

Parker said armed, uniformed deputies can look intimidating to children, and they try use a toy and a smile to lessen that impact and show they’re friends instead of bad guys.

With the quilts, Berry said they stay with the children, who may be moved multiple times, and give “some form of consistency.”

Welch approached him about donating the quilts, saying she’d heard of such programs in other areas. Since then, she and the club have supplied quilts in a variety of colors and sizes, and Berry said he knew Welch spent a lot of her own time on the work.

“It’s almost like she knows when we’re getting low,” he said, adding that when the department is down to two or three quilts, Welch shows up with another half-dozen.

Berry estimated officers hand out 40-45 quilts a year, easily.

Brown said she started donating stuffed animals to the department in 2006. Her sister-in-law participated in such a project in Oklahoma, and Brown thought it was a wonderful idea.

At first, Brown collected the toys with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary when she was chairwoman, and she has continued the effort on her own after her term in the position.

“I love children,” she said. “I would like them to have some type of comfort going through a traumatic situation.”

Brown finds, cleans and repairs about 25 stuffed animals for Portales Police Department a month, she said. She didn’t know how much time she’s spent on it.

“I don’t even think about that; I just do it,” Brown said.

Parker, Berry and Smart said they appreciate all of the donations the community has given for the children.

“It would be nice if the people who donate these could see the good that they do,” Smart said.