Cops’ ‘Christmas mission’ raises spirits of single mom

Discover how an ordinary day for two outer East Portland police officers turned into a lively adventure, and a real Christmas for one Centennial neighborhood family …

When they left the East Precinct building in the Hazelwood neighborhood to start their daytime shift, two officers had no idea of the adventure that awaited them.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In many ways, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct partners Officer Rob Jackson and Officer George Weseman looked to be ready for a routine shift like so many others, as they got into their patrol car on the morning of December 16.

The duo headed east to District 961 – the Centennial neighborhood along SE 162nd Avenue, between SE Division and Stark streets, on the City of Gresham border.

The officers approach this small 30-foot fifth-wheel trailer with caution, as they respond to a “Disturbance Call”.

“Late in the morning, Dispatch sent us to a ‘Disturbance Call’ in our district,” Officer George Weseman began. A neighbor had called in, telling the 9-1-1 Operator that she heard some yelling and then somebody saying, ‘Ouch!’ It sounded to the neighbor like it might be a domestic disturbance.”

When they arrived, Weseman told East Portland News, the officers didn’t find a couple fighting or other domestic disturbance – only a single mother with her small children. “She admitted she was yelling, but it was at her ex-husband, who was on the phone.

“She said her name was Margi, said she was angry, crying, and upset with her ex, because she had no money to provide anything for Christmas for her kids – no gifts, or even for a small Christmas tree,” Weseman continued. “And she cried out in pain because she dropped something on her toe after she hung up.”

Officers Weseman and Jackson surveyed the situation, determined her story to be true, and asked for more information, including the ages and gender of her kids.

“We learned that she’d only been here in the city a few months,” said. “She’d gone to the different charities, but was told she was ‘too late’ to sign up, and came up empty handed. She wasn’t having any luck, anywhere.”

The officers gave Margi suggestions as they left the travel trailer. But, somehow their words sounded empty and hollow as they returned to the patrol car.

Still feeling the glow from their “Christmas Mission” as they stand in the PPB East Precinct lobby are Officers Rob Jackson and George Weseman.

“You need to understand this: We’re pretty much ‘on the same page’ with each other, because we’ve worked as partners for quite a while,” Weseman continued. “We looked at each other said, ‘Christmas Mission’ at the same time.”

Jackson chimed in, “It was sad because she was crying. She wasn’t sad for herself; she was crying because she couldn’t provide for her kids. We both have a soft spot in our hearts when it comes to kids, and we were thinking, ‘We’ve got to do something here’.”

So, as they described it, the pair went into “mission mode” – gaining permission, preparing, and acting.

The first step was getting in touch with their sergeant to see if was okay for them to “do a little Christmas shopping. “The sergeant said, ‘Great! Go for it!’ I got on our mobile computer and put out a precinct-wide message asking if others wanted to contribute,” Weseman said.

Their dispatchers monitor these messages, as well as their voice radio calls. As a donation pledges came in, a Bureau of Emergency Communications dispatcher recommended that the pair visited the Portland Fire & Rescue Toy-N-Joy Makers division.

“They were waiting for us, and they gave us a shopping cart and showed us where the toys were,” said Weseman. “We filled up a shopping cart with age-appropriate toys and gifts for the family. They boxed everything up for us.”

Jackson said neither of them had been to Toy-N-Joy Makers in the past. “It was just fantastic. We’re talking all-brand-new toys in their original cartons. I just can’t say enough good things about this organization. We filled our whole patrol car up with boxes full of toys.”

Next on their list was the PPB Sunshine Division, where they picked up a couple of boxes of food, and asked that Margi’s family be on the box delivery route for Christmas meal delivery.

Then, it was over to a Fred Meyer store, where they picked up a small Christmas tree – complete with lights and decorations – plus wrapping paper and tape.

“We also got them Christmas Stockings and filled them with candy,” Jackson continued. “And, we got a Fred Meyer gift card for Margi, so she’ll be able to get something for herself, as well.”

With their patrol car fully loaded, they headed back to the neighborhood.

The two cops walked up to the door, and checked in with Margi, saying they’d like to “provide a little Christmas” for her, with her permission.

“She burst out in tears,” Weseman described. “But this time, it was clearly tears of joy. She was surprised and happy. For us, it was great.”

Margi Seburn and her kids bask in the glow of a Christmas brought to them by two caring East Precinct cops.

The following day, Margi Seburn told East Portland News she was still amazed by how the two officers changed the Holidays for her family.

When she learned how people from the three emergency response agencies quickly responded to the officers’ requests, she smiled and shook her head.

“It’s amazing. It completely blows me away,” Seburn said. “When they showed up and pull that Christmas tree out of the car, I was excited. In fact, I was ecstatic to be able to give my kids something for Christmas.

“And then, they started pulling out box after box after box. I wondered how they got all of that into the police cruiser.

“Without them we would not have had a Christmas,” Seburn added. “All I can say is ‘thank you very much’ to everyone at the Portland Police Bureau, and especially to the two officers. This is a Christmas we’ll remember forever, in a really good way.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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