Twenty area law enforcement officers and 80 high school students studying to go into the law enforcement profession teamed up Tuesday to help 68 area families have a merrier Christmas.
The fifth annual Operation Joy, organized by the criminal justice students at the Corbin Area Technology Center, provided holiday food boxes the families in need.
“Law enforcement picks the families. They know the needy in the community because they are out there every day,” said Law Enforcement Teacher Tackett Wilson, a veteran of the Kentucky State Police.
Wilson said it is his students who lead the way on the effort, securing sponsorships getting donations to fill the boxes, and writing letters to add to each one.
“It is a win–win for law enforcement,” Wilson said. “They are coming to pick up a free box containing turkey and all the trimmings, and food for later on, including items to make soup to help those in the community.
“It is also a win–win for the student. They get to take ownership of the project, and they get to work with law enforcement to help those in need in the community.”
“We are very blessed,” Tackett said of the students who participate in the program.
Wilson said when the first Operation Joy was held in 2015, the students provided 15 food boxes.
“You make a real difference,” Whitley County Sheriff Todd Shelley told the students, noting he has seen grown men cry when he has handed them one of the baskets.
“My hat is off to you for what you are doing,” he said.
Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo told the students that this program not only teaches the students about serving the community, one of the tenants of law enforcement, but also about teamwork.
“Law enforcement, the public and everybody are working together to do something that is wonderful for the community. Pat yourselves on the back. There is nothing better that you could do,” Acciardo said.
Wilson said the students began working on the project just after Halloween to collect the donations.
Walmart, Grace Community Health, Pepsi, Save-a-Lot and Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant sponsored the program.
Law enforcement from Kentucky State Police, KSP Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, Knox, Laurel and Whitley County Sheriff’s department, Corbin Police, Williamsburg Police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Whitley County Constable Ron “Bubba” Bowling, were on hand to transport the food boxes.
Whitley County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling was also in attendance to show his support.
Wilson said public donations to help the program are welcome and encouraged. Money and/or non–perishable food donations may be dropped off at the technology center next year beginning on Nov. 1, 2020.