VALDOSTA -- Employees at the Lowndes County Jail are helping make Christmas brighter for some local families.

For the second year, jail personnel sponsored three families that otherwise would face a bleak holiday because the family's primary breadwinner is incarcerated.

The four county jail shifts, jail administration and Sheriff's Office administration each sponsored a child, purchasing clothes and toys for the children ranging from ages 10 to 14. Each family also received a large box of food for a holiday meal.

Shirley Lewis, medical director at the jail, headed up this year's drive and said she was amazed at how well the officers and staff responded to the call.

"We will continue to do this with the staff as far as I'm concerned," she said. "We happened to know by talking to the families that they really needed clothes. That was the first thing that came out of their mouths. But the staff took it upon themselves to go beyond that. It was taking it to another level. They really shop for them like they were their own kids."

Staff Sgt. Annette Williams said the drive was a way to help good people in bad situations.

"A lot of times, people aren't as fortunate as we are," she said. "I've always been taught that it's better to give than receive, and when you give, you get back. It's a part of life. It's caring."

Lewis said the families were chosen from among the jail's "ideal inmates" -- those who give jail personnel no problems.

Most of the gifts were wrapped, though others were left out for stocking stuffers. The response of the three families was one of gratitude, and some were clearly emotional at the gesture.

To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.

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