CRESTVIEW — Officers at the Crestview Police Department know many local families are struggling financially. Financial hardships can especially become evident during the holidays.

The agency’s Cops For Kids program provides new, age-appropriate unwrapped toys for children between the ages of 2 and 16.

A program of the department’s Community Services division, Cops For Kids has helped families in need for almost 20 years. This year, CPD Officers Wanda Hulion and Sam Kimmons carry on the tradition started by the late Officer Bill Napier toward the end of the 1990s.

“We rely on donations from the community to make the program work,” Kimmons said.

“We’re especially grateful to generous folks, like the workers at Allen Turner Chevrolet and Yvonne Shanklin of Edward Jones Financial, who make it possible for us to support so many kids.”

For the third year, Allen Turner employees voluntarily have money withheld from their paychecks to support Cops For Kids. This is Shanklin’s first year supporting the program.

In 2015, the local Chevy dealership’s staff donated more than $6,000 to the program, allowing volunteers to purchase 15 shopping carts of gifts for 110 children in Crestview and North Okaloosa County. Last year the amount rose to $6,500, filling 16 shopping carts to support 135 kids.

Local children’s legal guardians from families in need are invited and encouraged to apply for participation in the program. To help as many families as possible, if a family received assistance through Cops For Kids in 2015 or 2016, they are not eligible to apply this year. Only North Okaloosa County residents may apply.

“It’s a lot of work organizing this program,” Hulion said. “But when we see the relief on the faces of parents when they pick up the sacks of toys, we know it is worth it. It’s one less thing they need to worry about around the holidays.”

To be sure the police “elves in blue” have plenty of time to shop for this year’s participating children, their parents or guardians must submit the application form in person to the Crestview Police Department, located in the Whitehurst Municipal Building, at 201 Stillwell Blvd., by Dec. 8. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Distribution of toys will be Dec. 20 and 21 at Warriors Hall in the Whitehurst Municipal Building.

Applications may be downloaded from the department’s website, www.CrestviewPD.org, or obtained in person at the CPD lobby window 24 hours a day at 201 Stillwell Blvd. in the Whitehurst Municipal Building. Applications are also available at City Hall.

Hulion and Kimmons welcome donations of cash or new, unused, unwrapped toys. Donations may be brought to the Police Department, or dropped off at area Dollar General stores, Walgreen’s, Shanklin’s Edward Jones office, or City Hall. Cash donations must be given directly to police officers.