- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Woodbury County Courthouse recently joined other local agencies that give away stuffed animals to children in an effort to cheer them up or help them feel more secure.

Security officers started handing out plush toys to children as they pass through the building’s metal detectors in May, when the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office took over supervision of the courthouse security station. A tubful of the cuddly creatures at the security checkpoint has calmed down and brought smiles to the faces of kids who are scared, upset, restless and shy while arriving at the courthouse.

“A small child, to go through security and look at these big guys in uniforms, the last thing I wanted them to be is afraid,” Woodbury County Sheriff’s Maj. Todd Wieck said.

Wendy Erickson, a security officer and former Sioux City police officer, said the stuffed animals have helped calm children who were scared to go through security, as well as kids whose behavior is proving to be a handful for parents who are trying to complete their business at the courthouse. She said the toys help parents just as much as they help their children.

“They’re just so happy about it. It makes you feel good when you see them happy,” Erickson said.

Stuffed animals have been distributed as a tactic to bring peace of mind to children for years by Woodbury County sheriff’s deputies, Sioux City police officers and paramedics, the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/1MGJe3v ) reported.

The sheriff’s office has been collecting the toys to give away for the past 26 years. It frequently receives donations of stuffed animals from the public and has bags of them in the Law Enforcement Center, Wieck said.

“It’s been going on for a long time. Somewhere in this building, we’ve always got a bag of stuffed animals,” he said.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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