Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst Police Department hosts annual gift drive

Gifts can be brought to the station

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Amherst Police Department hosts annual gift drive

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

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The Amherst Police Department is doing its part to spread holiday cheer this season with its annual gift drive, which started on Nov. 19 and will conclude on Dec. 19.

The APD is looking for toys, books, games, wrapping supplies and gift cards. No cash will be taken. Donations can be brought to the APD station on 111 Main St. and will be distributed to the Amherst Survival Center, Bridge Family Resource Center and Jessie’s House in Amherst, the only shelter for families in Hampshire County.

Detective Marcus Humber started the annual event about five years ago.

“When I was in college, each athletic program sponsored a family for Christmas. We got a wish list and purchased what we could. After I graduated, I continued to reach out for a few years and make donations,” Humber explained. “Finally, I decided it made more sense to start something more local.”

This year, the station has already received some “generous donations” and they hope for more.

“We understand money can be tight this time of year, but a little donation goes a long way to those less fortunate,” Humber said.

“The main goal is to supply as many children as possible with something to open on whatever holiday they celebrate,” he added. “I enjoy helping that process.”

Tracey Levy, program director of the Amherst Survival Center, said the center has had a long history of connecting participants to gifts. In the past, they have hosted a more traditional toy drive, but more recently the toy drive has morphed into a book and game giveaway.

“During the years, the police have been wonderful partners, collecting gifts and toys for area children,” Levy said. “In the last two years, we’ve worked more closely — figuring out the best timing (and ideal items) for our program…This is a win-win.”

Every family with children under the age of 18 that accesses the food pantry at the Survival Center between Dec. 1 and Dec. 21 can take home new books and games and winter accessories like gloves and hats.  Levy said each child typically gets three new books (some signed by the authors) and a winter item. Each family can also get up to three games depending on how many children they have.

The Survival Center has distributed over 1,200 books and 300 games to 500 children in past years, so they hope to collect at least that during this year’s gift drive. Levy said any extra donations help with the next year’s first week, as most donations don’t come in until later in the month.

“We love the diversity of people donating copies of their favorite books and or games from when they were growing up,” Levy said, encouraging people to donate. She also wants to remind people that the Center gives out gifts to teenagers, age 18 and under.

“This program distributes gifts to over 500 children — speaking over a dozen languages — each year. It takes a village to make their holiday special,” she said.

The South Hadley Police Department is also looking for donations for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and the Hadley Police and Fire Departments will “stuff a cruiser and fire truck with toys on an event at the Hadley Public Safety Complex,” on Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon, according to MassLive.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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