FBC Swannanoa delivers toys to Black Mountain Police Department for children in trauma
On May 16, a group of women piled out of a van at the Black Mountain Police Department.
Twice a year, the women's mission group from First Baptist Church of Swannanoa take stuffed animals, blankets and other children's toys to the police department. The officers keep the toys in squad cars and at the station for the times when children experiencing trauma need comforting.
"We'll keep them in our cars and we use them for different situations to help comfort children and sometimes adults, depending on the situation," said Brad Demuth, an officer at BMPD for nearly two years. "I've personally given a few of these out during wrecks where the kids may not be injured, they're just upset."
Demuth said the frequency of situations involving a child can be random. Most commonly, he said situations involving children stem from vehicle collisions.
"Depending on the officer, you could have four wrecks in a shift, and if you have four people on a shift each one has a wreck," Demuth said. "You never know if there's going to be a child in the car. You never know if they're going to be affected by it."
For vehicle collisions, Demuth said the experience frequently results in trauma for children, and it can be helpful to offer a stuffed animal to brighten their spirits.
The police department also acts as a safe haven for children who have been given up by parents, according to Demuth. He said by law, children can be released to a police or fire department.
Though Demuth said these situations are uncommon, having things to comfort children helps make up for the lack of proper facilities to accommodate them.
According to statistics from Buncombe County Schools, nearly 600 children were unhoused in 2019.
Judy Bridges, a member of the FBC Swannanoa group, said she was motivated to provide toys for children interacting with police after hearing about a situation where a 9-year-old girl had to wait at the police station for roughly eight hours while a family member drove from Tennessee to pick her up. She said the girl's family had been detained during a traffic stop.
"I'm sure they fed her," Bridges said. "I thought how nice it would have been if they could've had something to have given her."
Edwina Messer, the director of the mission group, said the women go to Kohl's and pick up toys and children's things safe for all ages. With one member of the group as old as 100, the women still make it to the police station in person to deliver the donations.
"It's definitely a great thing that they do for us, and we filter that back out to the community," Demuth said. "Thankfully, we don't use (the toys) much."
Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or email@example.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.