The Washington Township Police Department is helping a handful of families this holiday season through its Movember fundraiser and the Thanksgiving food drive.
“The fundraiser ties in with our community’s caretaking mission and caring for others,” said Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik. “It becomes a priority for our police force and our members. They were more than willing and happy to participate in these fundraisers, and this is the most money we have ever raised.”
This year is the fifth for the annual Movember fundraiser, which will pair police with the township fire department to create competition while raising money for two local families in need. The police department will give out prizes for best platoon, best mustache and best beard, all chosen by female officers on the force. Officers were also given the option to double down and continue growing their facial hair through the month of December.
“This fundraiser also helps raise cancer awareness and men’s health awareness by embracing facial hair and letting it grow,” said Gurcsik. “One of the goals is to use the money spent on shaving and grooming to help others fighting a battle.”
The first family who will receive donations is the Aquino family, previously featured in a Sun story after Jon Aquino lost his hands and feet to a devastating disease in the summer. He and his family live in Washington Township, where Jon was previously a nurse at Jefferson Hospital in the COVID unit.
The family is in need of funds to make ends meet, with large medical bills and the cost of a transplant surgeon to replace Jon’s hands.
The second recipient family, the Babans, is also from Washington Township and needs donations to help pay for the 58 weeks of chemotherapy their 2-year-old daughter Ava needs to treat a tumor found on her brain earlier this summer.
So far, the police department has collected nearly $4,000 to divide between the families and hoping to bring in more by spreading awareness of their circumstances.
“When we donate the money, we will be able to share both of the GoFundMe pages on our social media,” Gurcsik explained. “We hope that we can create more donations by just making people aware of these families and their situations here in Washington Township.”
The department will also give back to the community through its annual Thanksgiving food drive. Officers will be outside the Turnersville ShopRite on the evenings of Tuesday, Nov. 16, and Wednesday, Nov 17, to collect nonperishable food items and monetary donations that will enable the purchase of frozen turkeys for needy families.
Last year, 25 families received complete Thanksgiving dinners with help from the community.
“Many families in the township are preparing for the holidays, and we can’t ignore those we know will be struggling this holiday season with food insecurity,” Gurcsik noted. “Each year, we have been able to help more families than in years past.”