The Bristol Police Department has been collecting new, unwrapped toys this year for their annual toy drive. They’ve received toys from different organizations, and Bristol residents. The toys collected will go to the Bristol Salvation Army and be given to families in need for Christmas.
“It’s always rewarding to see the community coming out and supporting Bristol. The Salvation Army provides for the Bristol residents. Everything that’s donated stays in the area, so that’s important,” said Lt. Mark Morello.
Morello said that the majority of a policeman’s work is doing community service, so this was an extension of that.
“It helps those who can’t help themselves, and they’re in positions where they want to provide a special moment for their family—most often their children,” said Morello. “They might not be in positions where they can’t do that.”
Shareena Echavarria, captain of the Bristol Salvation Army, said that 330 families signed up for Christmas assistance. In 2016, 180 families signed up, and last year 270 families had signed up.
“Our Christmas program is the one program a year where it’s not about why people are in poverty, it’s not about what they’ve done to get there—it could be generational, it could be loss of job. It’s about the kids; all of those why questions don’t matter,” said Echavarria. “It’s a direct donor to child gift.”
Captain Echavarria has gotten donations from Bristol Hospital, and the United Way. The Bristol Garden Club also participated by gathering toys at the Chippanee Golf Course for the Police Dept. to pick up.
“Most of our work in the garden club is giving back to the community,” said Club President, Claudette Dekoe. “We work with the Cambridge Park children in the Summertime planting a vegetable garden. We have a pizza party, we have a salad party. At the end we do a community event.”
“I love the kids that are going to be receiving this because they probably wouldn’t be able to otherwise; some kids aren’t lucky enough, and I can’t see that happening—especially at Christmas,” said Dekoe.
Captain Echavarria goes through all of the toys that get brought to the Salvation Army. She will then make sure that every family that signed up for assistance receives the toy they asked for. She has a whole system worked out.
“I’m here very late, so that on Dec. 19 when the families show up, they’ll be blessed,” said Captain Echavarria. “The toys for the toy drive are used for the Angel Tags that are not adopted, and they’re also used for the overflow families that have emergencies that have come up.”
Helping out those in need is a family affair for Echavarria. Her husband, Emmanuel, helps with the Red Kettle Bell workers, and he also helped Bristol officers bring donated toys to the Salvation Army.
“It’s very hectic for our kids, but one of us is always home at night,” said Echavarria. “We decorate our Christmas tree very early—right after Halloween. We try to take time; my daughter is very helpful. We did our distribution day for Dec. 19, overflow on the Dec. 20. I clean up, and then we have our Christmas party with our church on Sunday, and that Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be home with my kids.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jamila Young, email her at JYoung@BristolObserver.com.