The Washington Township Police Department is holding their first ever Stuff a Cruiser event to collect toys for local families in need.
After the department saw the outpouring of love and support from the community during their Thanksgiving Food Drive, it decided to host a different kind of toy drive this year.
“We were looking for ways we could help the community more during the pandemic,” said Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik. “A lot of what we do has been sidelined, because we are unable to have as much contact with the residents.
“We came up with this idea because our thanksgiving food drive was a huge success and we were able to feed over 40 families,” he added. “It was really awesome: People just showed up there to donate, not even to go shopping, with tons and tons of food.”
Officers will bring the department’s Humvee, as well as its utility truck, to the Turnersville Walmart on the Black Horse Pike on Dec. 12, where they will collect unwrapped toys from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The department also seeks clothing donations.
Police hope to help around 40 families in the area whose names were provided to them by the school district, as well as the township food bank, Mother’s Cupboard.
“Our local PBA (Policemen’s Benevolent Association) has collected toys and donated them to Mothers Cupboard or Toys for Tots,” Gurcsik said. “What we are doing this year is trying to make sure the toys stay here in town, to help families in need this year due to the situation with the pandemic.”
Another department event that has been changed because of COVID-19 is the annual Shop with a Cop event. Officers this year are unable to gather children on a bus to take them to Walmart and help them pick out Christmas presents. The day usually ends with a pizza party in the school gymnasium, which has also been canceled.
Despite the pandemic changing the tradition, the department still received a $4,000 grant from Walmart and officers will be sent to the store to pick out gifts for children. The gifts will be sorted and processed in the township courtroom, then distributed to families.
“I think the kids look forward to it,” Gurcsik noted. “I helped drop off some turkeys and they were just excited to see police officers in the house.”
This year, the department has also collected over $3,400 through its No-Shave November fundraiser. That money will be donated to the Passante family as Anthony Passante undergoes treatment for a Grade 4 glioblastoma. Prizes are also being distributed for best platoon, best beard and best mustache.
“It was really successful and a huge morale (boost) for the guys, and they seem to love it,” Gurcsik said.
Another morale-raising project will also happen this week: The department will decorate one of its cruisers with lights and park it at the entrance to the police station on Greentree Road.