BLOOMINGTON — A single mother and her six children were treated to an early holiday surprise Wednesday when they found clothing donations collected by Bloomington Police Department employees wrapped and waiting for them at the police station.
Lorraine Sczrpia and her children lined up behind a row of large gift-wrapped boxes in the department's Osborne Room and waited eagerly to tear off the wrappings. After a count of three, they opened the boxes filled with shoes, coats and other clothing.
Officer Josh Jacobs was on hand to help with the gift exchange.
Jacobs, a third-shift patrol officer, met Lorraine Sczrpia and her children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, when officers responded recently to a domestic dispute at her Bloomington home. Sczrpia said she called officers after a disagreement with the father of several of the children.
As part of his response to the call, Jacobs went inside the home to gather information for a report. The five girls and their 4-year-old brother "are very friendly," said Sczrpia, and were eager to talk with the officer.
Jacobs, who has a 3-year-old daughter, asked the woman if she could use some help with winter clothing.
"I was thinking winter coats, boots and snow pants," said Jacobs.
An email request to other police department employees resulted in piles of children's clothing, including the outdoor apparel.
"The police department is pretty awesome. The box was overflowing and had to be emptied every time I came in," said the officer, who has been with the department for about three years. The work to organize the donations was done on Jacobs' off-duty hours.
The clothing was sorted, put in large packing boxes and wrapped for each child.
"They didn't know until they got here that this was happening," Sczrpia said of her children's visit. She had worked with Jacobs over the last two or three weeks to make sure the clothes were the correct sizes.
Eleven-year-old Jazmine Griffin said a pair of black sneakers topped with lace was her favorite gift. A second pair of flats were just what she needed for an upcoming concert, she said, unpacking the tall cardboard box holding a new winter wardrobe.
The delivery to the family several weeks ahead of Dec. 25 was based on what could be an immediate need for warm clothing, said Jacobs.
"It was just an early Christmas for them," said the officer.
For Sczrpia, the generosity of police employees eases the everyday burden of providing for girls ages 3, 6, 7, 9 and 11 and their brother.
"Being a single mother and raising them by myself, this helps out a lot," said Sczrpia.
According to BPD spokesman Elias Mediola, the clothing drive included two large containers of children's wear from a woman who heard about the effort from an employee.