PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- "It's going to sound kind of cliche, but I just always wanted to help," said Dennis Smith. Growing up in the North Philadelphia area, he aimed that passion towards becoming a police officer.
The 24-year Philadelphia Police Department veteran is now the Community Relations Officer for the 14th District. It has become an annual tradition to provide free toys and food to neighborhood families on Christmas morning.
"I just want to put that smile on a little kid's face that maybe can't wake up this morning with, you know, a lot of gifts under the tree," he said.
Officer Smith was able to help 15 families thanks to the support of NewCourtland Senior Services, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, and of course, Santa Claus.
"I'm so grateful," said Cherry McNeil of Northwest Philadelphia. "It's real tough, but it came through. The police district came through."
She is not the only family hurt financially by circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. For many parents, the promise of Christmas gifts was not as certain this year.
"I got what I could get, but I'm appreciative of what everybody else has given us," said Ronnetta Burton from Northwest Philadelphia.
The smile on each recipient's face was enough cause for Officer Smith to work on Christmas day.
"You work most holidays. It could be times where you're trying to make it back home," he said. "It's a sacrifice, but we signed up for it. We're out there protecting the community. Protecting and serve."