YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Police and others fanned out across the city on Good Friday, but not for the reason people may think.
Officers were joined by the fire department and others to give out Easter baskets filled with candy and gifts to hundreds of families throughout the city.
Police Chief Carl Davis estimated baskets were given to about 200 children, and he was in the middle of it all, giving out baskets and talking to the children.
Victoria Allen, head of the ICU Block Watch, and police Lt. Frank Rutherford, were instrumental in organizing the event.
Also taking part were members of the city fire department; Mill Creek MetroParks Police; Boardman High School Lacrosse team: the Ursuline football and baseball teams; and Liberty Walmart.
Giannios Candies donated over $1,000 in candy.
Allen said the materials for the baskets were left over from her block watch’s Easter Egg hunt last week. She spent all of this week putting them together in one of the courtrooms in the old municipal court, which police use for training.
Allen said she not only worked with the police department but also the city school district to get names and addresses of children who would need baskets.
“Collaboration is the name of the game,” Allen said.
Allen said the goal is to let the children know that no matter what happens, there are plenty of people who care about them.
“It makes me want to cry because it’s so good to let the kids know someone cares about them,” Allen said.
On the West Side, Alethia Babham was watching as two children she cares for, Pierre and Emily Byrd, were examining their baskets.
Babham said she was very grateful to the city and its residents for reaching out to help the children have a good Easter.
“I feel wonderful and I thank the community and the Youngstown Police Department,” she said. “I love the city of Youngstown. It’s fantastic.”
On the East Side, Sylvia Rozenblad watched as officers pulled up and handed baskets to her two daughters, Wancha Belt, 10, and LaPromise Athey, 16. Rozenblad kept the baskets from the girls, who were genuinely surprised when a convoy of police cars pulled onto the street before two officers got out and gave the girls their baskets.
“When they’re happy, I’m so happy. I’m so happy they’re chosen,” Rozenblad said. “It’s an honor. They go through so much. I might be happier than they are.”
Both girls admitted to being very surprised.
There were some logistical challenges — some addresses did not pan out and Allen had to track down the parents via social media or other means — but the effort was worth it, she said.
“It is what it is and we got it done,” Allen said.