The University of Rhode Island Police Department is now accepting donations of unwrapped toys for their second-annual toy drive for children in the surrounding community who don’t receive gifts during the holiday season.
“[The] need is greater than the community can support,” said Officer Paul Hanrahan of the URI police force, who is the creator of this event and many other similar events that the department holds.
Going into their first toy drive last year, Hanrahan explained that their initial goal was to fill two police cruisers with toys. In the end, they filled nine police cruisers with an estimated 3,500 toys. He added that there was barely enough free space to even sit down in his cruiser.
“It was very successful,” Hanrahan said. “We hope to do the same thing this year.”
The goal this year is to again fill two cruisers with toy donations. Of course, Hanrahan and the rest of the department would love to have as great of a turnout as last year, but they understand that with the economy it is difficult to predict how much families can spare.
To conclude the collection, Hanrahan and fellow officers will drive their cruisers to the local Walmart in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, from Dec. 17 – 18. As they did in 2015, they will set up in front of the store to collect toy donations from the community.
“People from the community would come to us and ask us what we were doing,” Hanrahan said, in reference to last year’s event. “They would come out [of Walmart] and they would give us everything and anything.”
URI Police Major Michael Jagoda explained that this toy drive has become part of their “Community Policing Philosophy” that focuses on forming relationships between the police and the citizens of the community that they serve.
“The fundamental principles of why we all became public services officers [is] really to make that positive difference and to help those in need,” Jagoda said. “[In recent economic times] there are more families in need now and collecting the toys is a great feeling.”
Even with the entire police department and the university’s support on this project, Hanrahan admits that this is not a problem that will go away. “It’s not a one-time fix,” he said. “So as long as there’s a need and we have an ability to do it, I can see it [continuing].”
The toys that are donated are spread between multiple local agencies, including surrounding homeless shelters and Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Each agency received approximately 10-15 black garbage bags full of toys to be handed out to the children thanks to last year’s drive. Hanrahan said that the most rewarding part of this entire event is delivering the toys to these different agencies.
“It takes two days of my week… I’m more than happy to do that,” Hanrahan said.
A lot of the police force participate on their own time while some officers can cover shifts for those that help out at the event in Walmart, according to Hanrahan. It’s a joint effort to make sure that the event is performed to its utmost ability.
“I know everyone’s time is limited,” Jagoda said about the community here at URI. “But even if they stop at the police department, we’re accepting unwrapped toys and donations… we’ll even go to their place to pick the toys up.”