Merced police and their families spread Christmas cheer with turkey dinners and gifts

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comDecember 23, 2013 

— On the heels of a tragic month, Christmas prospects for 6-year-old Jocelyn Chavez got a little brighter on Monday, thanks to Merced police officers and their families.

On Dec. 3, Jocelyn lost one of her best friends, 5-year-old Geraldine Perez, who died in a fire that also claimed the lives of Geraldine’s father and her uncle. Jocelyn’s family lived next door and lost their home in the blaze.

Her family has since moved to an apartment and they have been slowly piecing their lives back together with a lot of help from friends and family and the Merced Police Officers Association.

On Monday, officers and their families brought the Chavez family a full turkey dinner for Christmas, as well as stuffed toys and other presents for the holidays.

“It’s been very nice,” Jocelyn’s mother, Rosalinda Villanueva, said Monday.

Last week, Jocelyn participated in the Police Department’s Shop with a Cop Christmas program. The officers helped Jocelyn replace some of the clothes she lost in the house fire.

But the officers did not stop with Jocelyn’s family on Monday. The Villanuevas were just one of 10 families that received Christmas meals.

“In the past we were able to help families on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this year, with limited resources, we were only able to help at Christmas,” Detective Raquel Rios said.

Donations were down this year, Rios said, at least in part because of a struggling economy.

Officers and their children loaded the department’s SWAT team vehicle full of turkey dinners and Christmas presents and rumbled down the streets of Merced passing out meals and holiday cheer.

“It’s fun to give back, and I like thinking that we get to help families by at least helping them have a Christmas dinner,” explained 16-year-old Hunter Fink. “Some of these unfortunate families like (the Villanueva family) have lost everything, and at least now they have a dinner.”

Hunter and 14-year-old Tryston Salyers were in charge of carrying the boxed meals into the home while the younger children carried the toys.

Villanueva said she was grateful for the help.

“I think it’s starting to get better,” she said.

Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at or (209) 385-2482.

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