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      Operation TOYS brings Christmas cheer to kids

      Over seven dozen children received a complementary Christmas shopping adventure Saturday morning, courtesy of local law enforcement agencies.

      Operation "TOYS" or "Take Our Youth Shopping" sees police officers partner up with needy children to get toys and other Christmas gifts at the Jefferson City Walmart.

      This year, officers six law-enforcement agencies participated in the Christmas shopping. Participating agencies included the Jefferson City Police Department, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Capitol Police, Missouri Department of Corrections, and the Lincoln University Police Department.

      The program is funded by officers themselves, who contribute money out of their own pockets to take kids shopping. This year, law enforcement agencies raised $7500, enough to buy 75 children $100 worth of toys and gifts for themselves and their families.

      The program has been in place for over 20 years. According to the Jefferson City Police Department, the program has grown slowly each year as it has become more well-known.

      Brittany Coleman brought her three daughters to Walmart to participate in the shopping event. She said it was an experience that she will never forget. "It was sweet," Coleman said. "I still can't understand how I'd never heard of this before. I will definitely spread the word."

      Santa Claus also paid a visit to the children. He said, it is important to remember that this event extends beyond the toy isle.

      "We just want to make sure everybody understands there are a lot of people in this community that need our help," Santa said. "These police officers are stepping up, we hope the community will step up also and help out those who don't have as much as others."