Hundreds of books will help police ease children in tragedy

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard Girl Scouts Emma Barbee and Sabrina McKenzie hold up some of the numerous childrens books that they collected for recent donation drive. Proceeds go to the Tigard Police Department who will put the books into each squad car, to be used when on emergency calls involving children.For years, Tigard police have been throwing the book at criminals, but two local girls are throwing a few books of their own.

About 1,300 of them, to be exact.

Emma Barbee and Sabrina McKenzie, both 14-year-old Tigard High School freshmen, recently donated more than 1,000 children’s books to the police department to help children across the city.

The girls are Girl Scouts in Tigard Troop 40088. They gathered the books in March and donated them to the department last week.

The girls held the book drive at their former school, Charles F. Tigard Elementary. Students donated used and new books, and after two weeks the scouts had gathered more than 1,300 children’s books.

The books will go out with patrol officers on calls that involve children, said Tigard police spokesman Jim Wolf.

“When we encounter situations that could be uncomfortable for children or traumatic, like a motor vehicle accident, or scenarios where officers need to either interview or arrest a parent or if officers need to remove children from homes, these (books) will work well as buffer for the child,” Wolf said. “It’s something for them to latch onto.”

The program is similar to a program Tigard police have had for years involving teddy bears.

Known as the Buddy Bear Program, police agencies across the nation use the plush toys to help children cope in stressful situations involving police.

All Tigard patrol cars carry a few of the stuffed toys for children, Wolf said.

The books are an important part of community policing, Wolf said, and will make a great addition to that program.

“This will be a natural segue for us to achieve those connections with kids,” Wolf said.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Girl Scouts Throw the Book at Tigard Police.Community projects

The books and bears also help to dispel misconceptions about police that children sometimes have, Wolf said.

“They demonstrates compassion and the human side of police officers,” Wolf said. “There are certain situations where children are hearing only negative connotations in regard to police and that’s all they know. So in those situations children are frightened or traumatized.”

While several agencies utilize the Buddy Bear Program, Wolf said he can’t think of another law enforcement agency that will be using books as part of their outreach to children.

“It’s unique,” he said. “And all the credit goes to these two girls.”

Wolf said that officers would begin taking book bags with them on patrol as early as this week.

Barbee and McKenzie weren’t alone in their work. Several of the girls from Troop 40088 contributed,

The girls sewed about 100 bags together for officers to keep a handful of books in.

“We tried to fill each bag with a variety of types of books, since we don’t exactly know who the books are going to go to,” McKenzie said.

The books aren’t the only community service project the troop is working on. Scouts have spent the year working on a variety of projects, including redecorating the community center at Tigard’s homeless shelter, the Good Neighbor Center; they collected hygiene supplies for a homeless shelter for youth in Aloha and organized special birthday baskets at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry at St. Anthony Catholic Church.

“The girls all help each other,” Barbee’s mother, Vicki, said.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard Police Department PIO Jim Wolf sets down a box of books into the back of a police car as girlscouts Emma Barbee, center, and Sabrina McKenzie watch. Barbee and McKenzie led a book drive to earn their silver award.Portland’s loss, Tigard’s gain

The girls gathered the books as part of their Silver Award — the second-highest award in Girl Scouts — which requires girls to work on a large community service project.

The two best friends thought up the idea after discussing it with a family friend who has ties to the Portland Police Bureau.

“We were talking about our likes and interests, and books came up,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie and Barbee also sewed more than 75 book bags.

Initially, the scouts planned to donate the books to the Portland Police Bureau, but when officials turned down the idea, they decided to keep the books closer to home.

But Portland’s loss is Tigard’s gain, Vicki said. “They got the books in Tigard and wondered, ‘What else can we do?’ but ultimately realized that they should stay in Tigard,” she said.

Wolf said he has already been able to put some of the books to use. At the department’s recent “When I’m in Charge” workshop, officers work with kids who are left unsupervised so they know how to respond to emergency situations.

Many of the kids in the workshops would be in charge of younger siblings as babysitters, Wolf said.

“We had two sold-out classes and all the children were provided with one of these book bags,” Wolf said. “It was a natural fit. The kids thought it was a great idea because when they go to babysit they will use the books to help draw the kids in. It is quality time for the kids so they don’t do something that they shouldn’t be doing.”

The girls said they were surprised by the turnout from the book drive, and were glad the books would be going to help kids across the city.

“I really thought we’d get about 500 books, max,” McKenzie said. “I was so surprised.”

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