The Prosper Police Department is giving out $250 Visa gift cards to 16 families this year as part of Cops with a Claus, a program started in 2000 to help families in financial need with their holiday shopping.

Several Prosper Independent School District schools participated in the program by helping identify potential recipients, according to a press release. Families applied for the program, and a group of volunteers made up of the Police Chaplain Unit and members of the community vetted the applications and selected the recipients. The police department was in the process of notifying the families this past week, said Assistant Police Chief Gary McHone.

“It’s certainly something to celebrate,” McHone said in the release. “I’m not sure if those of us who started this 16 years ago would have thought we’d be celebrating this milestone.”

The 16 families picked up their gift cards from the police station last Saturday. McHone said the event was casual and Christmas cookies and hot chocolate were provided.

The Cops with a Claus program is funded through donations. The police department collects funds year-round through fundraisers and financial donations in order to sustain the program. McHone said the past recipients have always been grateful for the help during the holiday season.

“Abundantly thankful has been their reaction historically, and we’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of families over the past 16 years,” McHone said.

McHone said the program has continued for 16 years because of the generosity of the Prosper community.

“It’s basically for the community by the community,” McHone said. “(The police department just has) the privilege and honor to spearhead that, and it’s just a simple way we’re giving back to our community.”