by Lisa Tome
It was the kind of Christmas tree that will warm the heads and hands of children well into the new year.
The staff at Perryville Sports Bar & Grille put up a different kind of tree for the holidays.
The tree represented a caring community, according to Jesse Lilly, Director of the Perryville Police Department Outreach Program.
Shiela Malatesta, manager of the restaurant, and owner Ali Afghani, installed a donated tree in the business. They then asked customers to contribute warm mittens, gloves, scarves, hats, and more for area children. A week before Christmas, the tree was covered.
"I'm very surprised. People responded well. And we got cash donations to buy more," said Afghani.
Malatesta said the she knows the impact of Perryville Outreach on children. Her son attended the program years ago. She also knows that hats and gloves are important. "I have a 17-year-old that refuses to wear a jacket. So at least they will have hats and gloves," she said.
Lilly said he is grateful that the business reached out to support the Outreach Program. "We run off donations. It helps so much when we don't have to work for it," said Lilly. He said that the hats and gloves will be distributed to the outreach members in need. They will then expand beyond that and give to those the outreach is helping with Toys for Tots donations.
Chief Allen Miller of the Perryville Police Department was astounded by the generosity.
"As a new business owner, he did not hesitate. This tree shows a lot about the people of Perryville. They are very caring and generous. It's great to have a business working for the community," said Miller. "Whatever the outreach needs, the police department is there for them."