NEWTON, NJ - Volunteering is important to the members of the Newton Police Department, many of whom step up to assist patrons at the Season of Hope toy shop at Project Self-Sufficiency each December. Officers direct traffic, assist with crowd control and other issues so that participants can have an enjoyable shopping experience.
The Season of Hope toy shop offers free, new and unwrapped toys to income-eligible families each year. More than 700 families were assisted last year, with toys going to more than 1,500 children. The total number of families served in 2013 will be even greater, according to organizers.
Having a police presence at the Season of Hope toy shop lends a calming effect to the whole experience, said Newton Police Chief Michael Richards. “We are able to provide a feeling of safety because Project Self-Sufficiency has such a large group of people who not only benefit from the toy shop, but who contribute on that day. It’s so complex and has so many moving parts. We have one little part and we are glad to be able to do it.”
The officers volunteer to work in shifts of several hours in length. “We ask everyone in the department to consider signing up to volunteer,” said Chief Richards. “It’s a festive atmosphere and we all look forward to it.”
The officers also give back by donating toys or the funds to purchase toys. The local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, Sussex County’s largest and oldest law enforcement organization, contributes the funds each year. The organization includes officers from police departments in Byram, Newton, Stanhope and Hamburg, as well as representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office.
“The presence of the officers from the Newton Police Department makes a world of difference at the Season of Hope toy shop each year,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency. “We are so grateful to the entire department for their support of the low-income families served by this toy drive, and we deeply appreciate their willingness to volunteer their time to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience while they are here.”
Donations to the Season of Hope Toy Drive will be accepted through the end of December. New and unwrapped gifts for infants, children, pre-teens and teens will be stored and used for the toy shop next December. To make a donation, or to find out more about the Season of Hope Toy Drive, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.