The Jacksonville Police Department continued a decades old tradition this month, that started nearly a century ago by one of Jacksonville’s most notable residents.
The Sammy Nichols Trust was set up in May of 1923 by Samuel W. Nichols who is most well known for his donation of land to the city to establish what came to be known as Nichols Park.
Nichols was well known for caring for the welfare of the children of Jacksonville. The The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Morgan County in 1906 reported that Nichols was known for “”visiting “poor authorities” and public school authorities “for advice as to children who might otherwise be overlooked at the Christmas season, and in this manner to see that every poor child of Jacksonville shall have an appropriate Christmas present.””
The Jacksonville Police Department has continued the effort set fourth by Nichols, and has provided toys for underprivileged children for as long as anyone at the department can remember.
Jacksonville Chief of Police Adam Mefford says it was a long standing tradition when he joined the force in the late 90’s, and remembers when the officers delivered the toys during their shifts, including one instance when he was called to the scene of a traffic accident with his squad car still stuffed full of toy bags to deliver.
Mefford says that the need for the program has increased to the point that it is no longer feasible for officers to deliver the toys, so families go to the Police Department to pick them up.
The JPD continues Nichols’ tradition of asking the school district to suggest names of children who may be in need, with this year receiving the names of 212 District 117 students. Of the 212 suggested names, 125 children picked up presents at the police station, with members of the Citizens Police Academy Alumni assisting with the distribution.
The Sammy Nichols Trust still provides the means for the program, with interest and earnings from the trust being used to pay for the toys.