Lincoln's Grandma Cop helps bring Christmas to Head Start students

Mr. and Mrs. Claus pay a visit
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Colene Patton of the Lincoln Early Head Start program welcomed her students and their families Friday to the center’s 10th annual Winter Celebration and visit from Santa Claus.

Santa and his helpers, including Grandma Cop, make sure every child in the program gets a gift.

“The Lincoln Hills community donates blankets, slippers and other wonderful gifts for the children,” Patton said Friday. “And Grandma Cop makes sure there is one gift for Santa to give out.”

Marilyn Thomas, also known as Grandma Cop, along with the Lincoln Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, adopted the Lincoln Early Head Start program’s child care center this holiday season to ensure a Merry Christmas was had by all.

“She’s been here for the last seven years and the kids love her. She is an amazing lady,” said Patton, who opened the child care center and has presided over all 10 Winter Celebrations. “There are 24 children and the seniors from Lincoln Hills all adopt one child each.”

Thomas organizes Kuddles for Kidz during the holidays.

“The purpose and goal of the group is to make or purchase items for the preschool children at the Early Head Start Kidz Kount Program,” Thomas said. “Each child receives a blanket, pajamas, slippers, clothing, a stuffed animal and a toy.”

Thomas said she is helped by Sally Bjorge, Jan Maddox, Marylyn Marcillac, Nancy Martin, Joann Marus, Joyce Tillotson, Pennie Vasta, Betty Wink and Dorothy Wood.

A former Lincoln Police Department volunteer, Thomas said she started working with Lincoln children 12 years ago when she introduced a safety program in schools.

“We instructed thousands of children every year,” said Thomas, a former Laguna Beach resident. “I was a teacher for 30 years and volunteered with the Laguna Beach Police Department. I felt it was so important for children to have safety skills.”

 “When I moved up here in 2005, the police chief at the time asked me to teach safety programs for children,” Thomas added. “I started with Carlin C. Coppin School and now it’s at all of the schools in Lincoln.”

Included among the safety skills Thomas teaches are personal safety, self-protection, what to do when home alone or lost in a mall, and vocabulary.

“I often use a puppet named Charlie Checkfirst,” Thomas said, “because you should check first with safety people before going anywhere with someone.”

The Lincoln Early Head Start program is at 870 J St. For more information, call 434-3705.