The entrance of the Merced Golf and Country Club on Thursday was filled with a pile of basketballs, toy cars, board games, dolls, action figures and stuffed animals under a lit-up Christmas tree.
Each toy was donated by community members and is meant for children under the age of 13 in Merced, according to Merced police Sgt. Bob Chapman.
Firemen and Cops for Kids is an annual program that dates back more than 35 years in Merced, Chapman said. The Merced Police Department and the Merced City Fire Department have been working with local businesses and the community to make sure children in Merced who need a Christmas gift receive one.
Firefighters and officers make sure each toy is given to a Merced resident, Chapman said, and this year they’re distributing toys to 325 families and about 1,000 kids.
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“This really gives us a chance to give back to the community and have parents and kids see us in a positive light,” Chapman said. “I think we make a terrific impact.”
There are many individuals who look forward to the toy drive, Chapman said, and some who depend on it. There are 30 to 35 businesses around Merced where people can donate toys or money.
Every donation is tax deductible, and checks can be made out to the Merced Police Recreation Fund, Chapman said. The money donated is evenly distributed between the toy drive and Shop With a Cop, a program where two kids from every school in the Merced City School District are chosen to shop for themselves and their families.
Community members can still donate toys, Chapman said, and families pick up their toys on Dec. 23.
Ryan Wells, captain of the Merced City Fire Department, said the annual toy drive is important, especially in this community where there are families with financial struggles.
“It shows the solidarity with people in the community,” he said. “I think that’s one of the perks of this program. It’s mutually beneficial for those who want to give and those receiving.”
Wells and Chapman both said they typically fall short on gifts for older children between ages 9 and 12, and could use more toys catered to that age group.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the community,” Wells said. “We’re just the facilitators. Without the community, it wouldn’t be able to survive.”
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486