Reading Reindeer: Give the gift of reading to local children through police programs

The Orange Observer is collecting new books for ages birth to 17 to be delivered to those in need just before the holidays.

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READING REINDEER: Winter Garden, Ocoee, Oakland police departments

The local police departments play an important role in getting books into the hands of West Orange County’s youngest residents. In Winter Garden and Ocoee, books accompany toys given to registered families in their respective toy give-away programs at Christmastime. This year, the town of Oakland is adding Reading Reindeer books to the toys given away in December.




The Winter Garden Police Athletic League Inc. hosts Holiday Gifts for Kids each year. The Winter Garden Police Department has coordinated with Reading Reindeer since 2012.

“We want to ensure the underprivileged children we serve have the tools to learn, and this starts with access to great books for their enjoyment,” Officer Gail Michaud said. “We enjoy that through Reading Reindeer we are able to offer a wide selection of books to the children of all ages.

“The community benefits from kids having access to reading materials outside of school,” Michaud said. “The Winter Garden Police Department benefits from knowing we are helping our community and investing in the generations of children.”

The Winter Garden PAL hosted its sixth annual 5K Donut Dash at Lake Apopka Nov. 5 to benefit Holiday Gifts for Kids. A total of 312 runners signed up for the event, which included 75 dozen fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts at three different stations along the route.

The funds from this event aid in purchasing gifts and food vouchers for citizens of Winter Garden who qualify for HGFK, and it allows PAL to host a free eight-week summer camp.



Qualifying families must register their children, from newborn to age 12, for the toy program prior to Dec. 5.

To register, pick up and return an application at one of the following locations or hand it to a police officer on patrol: Winter Garden Police Department, 251 W. Plant St.; City Hall, 300 W. Plant St.; Maxey Center, 830 Klondike St.; Mildred Dixon Activity Center, 303 S. West Crown Point Road; and Jessie Brock Community Center, 310 N. Dillard St.
When registering, parents or legal guardians must provide all of the following documents: birth certificate or court or custody paperwork; current water or utility bill for the Winter Garden address in which they reside; proof of government assistance, such as WIC or food stamps; and one type of identification, such as driver’s license, ID card or passport.

Families will be contacted by the Community Liaison Unit and given a program ticket with a scheduled pick-up date and time.

Members of the community are invited to donate new toys, games, sporting equipment, gift cards and more to help children in the Winter Garden community. Donation drop-off continues through Nov. 9 at the Winter Garden Police Department, 251 W. Plant St.
For information about the Holiday Gifts for Kids program, call (407) 656-3636, Ext. 5416.




The annual toy program in Ocoee has enjoyed a partnership between the Ocoee Police Department and the community since 1984. It is made possible by the generosity of city employees and residents who contribute new unwrapped toys and funds for children 6 months to 13 years of age.

Monetary and toy donations can be taken to the Ocoee Police Department, 646 Ocoee Commerce Parkway.



Participants must live in the city of Ocoee and be able to provide a valid driver’s license or Florida state identification card, proof of residency such as a utility bill and a birth certificate for each child.

Parents and legal guardians can register children from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday until Dec. 1 at the Ocoee Police Department.

Toys will be distributed Dec. 20 at the police station. The time for pick-up will be set during registration.

For information, call the Ocoee Police Department at (407) 905-3160.



The Oakland Police Department has been holding a toy drive for 15 years and typically assists about 25 families in providing Christmas presents for their children.

“We participate in the program to assist the families within our community that are in need,” said Stacie Quinn, director of police administration for OPD. “It also provides local residents and businesses a way to partner with the police department (in) assisting families.”

There is no registration system for the toy program.

“We get a predetermined list of families in need from the Oakland Avenue Charter School,” Quinn said. “Also, being a small community, we know of families that need help or just a little holiday cheer from Oakland officers interacting with the community. We then call each family to see if they would like to be a part of the program.”

Quinn said the police department is excited to partner with Reading Reindeer.

“Reading books is a pastime parents and children can enjoy together or provide children an escape that is not video games,” she said. “The Oakland Police Department is looking to expand their community engagement program. Reading Reindeer is another event that would strengthen the bond between the police department and the community.”





Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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