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The Folks Who Bring You Christmas . . .

It’s finally Christmas morning, and another hectic holiday season is almost over.

Santa has come and gone, and most of the colorful wrappings are torn from packages that were under the brightly decorated tree. The stockings that were hung by the chimney with care lie discarded on the floor.

Preparations for Christmas dinner are under way, and the smell of roasting turkey wafts from many a kitchen. Thoughts turn to family and friends who will gather later.

All but forgotten are the crowded parking lots, the long lines and the rest of the nerve-racking hustle-bustle that goes with the season.

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Also far from most of our minds are the people who helped bring us Christmas--the store clerk who painstakingly helped select that special tie or cologne, the delivery man who banged on your door each time a package arrived, the nice woman who hand-packed a box of candy and waited patiently as you made your selections.

Most who provide services to people during the holidays have worked long hours and have had little time for Christmas preparations for themselves.

“I have one day off before Christmas, and I haven’t even bought one gift,” said a harried clerk in a women’s clothing store last week.

“We’ve been open until 11 every night. I didn’t want to work this much.”

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Following are a few examples of people who made Christmas a little brighter for others this year. Their stories were compiled by Times staff writers.

The mounted officer: Patrolling on horseback brings Jim Render a dose of holiday spirit while keeping a tight rein on crime in a crowded mall parking lot.

Jim Render feels almost as popular as Santa Claus around the shopping malls.

Render, 29, is a Los Angeles mounted police officer assigned during the holiday season to the parking lots at three of the largest malls in the San Fernando Valley. The unit’s officers and horses are almost as visible outside the malls as the fat man in the red suit is noticeable inside. Children flock to them, and adults are comforted by their presence when taking their holiday gifts to their cars.

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And Render and his cohorts, who wear spurs and cowboy boots and hats, like it that way. In fact, helping to safeguard Christmas for others, Render says, makes his own holiday all the better.

“This enhances Christmas for me. It gets me in the spirit,” Render said while on patrol last week at Northridge Fashion Center on his horse, Tulsa. “I see a lot of young, happy children, and it rubs off. . . . It’s a break from dealing with the bad guys.”

Although he lives alone now, Render said that seeing the happy children at the malls reminds him of past Christmases spent with his close-knit family in Carson.

The three-officer patrols also watch over harried Christmas shoppers at Valley Plaza in North Hollywood and Topanga Plaza in Canoga Park.

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Police said the mounted patrols give them the advantage of being able to see far across sprawling and packed parking lots. The patrols are believed to be a deterrent against car break-ins, purse snatchings and other parking lot crimes that often rise when malls become crowded during the holiday season.

Render, who is tall and well-built, served in a narcotics unit and in patrol squads in some of the city’s gang-infested neighborhoods before moving to the mounted unit last Christmas. He said being on the horse beat during the holidays has been one of his most rewarding police assignments.

“You are dealing with people that are happy to see you. They let their guard down with you and talk to you. It keeps me in touch with reality--the reality that not everybody out there is a bad guy.”


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