Besides fighting crime and keeping their citizenry safe, Independence Police, specifically the Independence Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, reached out to Independence families in need this Christmas by supplying both toys and food on Monday night.

The Joy Project is the Independence Fraternal Order’s holiday outreach program where less fortunate families could either have Independence police officers deliver a donation bag or basket to their residence or personally pick one up from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Police’s Lodge on 18300 East State Route 78 in Independence, says Joy Project coordinator, Detective Virgil Garner.

"The ‘Joy’ in Joy Project means ‘Jesus, others and you,’" said Garner on how the project got its name. "The name is derived from a basic premise of the Bible."

This particular act of giving was formed by Independence Police Detective Jim Seever back in 2008, according to Garner. He said Seever was influenced by his sister who did a similar uptaking and then brought it to the attention of the Police Fraternal Order, who were already at the time looking for ways to help out the community. It was overwhemingly adopted by the fraternity and been put into practice ever since, Garner said.

Now in its sixth Christmas, Garner says 36 families will be helped this year.

"The number of families have grown since the program began," adds Garner. "But 26 families will stop by the lodge to pick up (gift) boxes and 10 will have their’s delivered since they were unable to make it here."

Garner says the Joy Project is exclusive to Independence. Families were pre-registered and selected from either surveys or lists by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, Independence Police Department, Habitat for Humanity, Independence School District and Missouri Division of Family Services.

The Joy Project coordinator said each donation bag or basket consisted of $75-80 worth of toy presents per child, whether boy or girl, and a turkey "with all the fixings" for the entire family.

He also mentioned that not only did local law enforcement contribute in providing the toys and food, but area businesses as well.

"Both Wal-Mart and Toys R Us gave the Joy Project $500 worth of gift cards each," said Garner. "And for the food, Hy-Vee made every item half-price."

Families are very greatful and appreciative in receiving the baskets or boxes, says Garner. "It’s a great feeling to see those who serve the community give back and keep the money here in Independence."