The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 14, 2012

Toy drive providing gifts to 120 children

By Kim West

— Passing motorists driving along Main Street might have noticed something awry at the Ardmore Police Department last Saturday.

That’s because a patrol car was chock-full of action figures, dolls and board games as part of the annual Ardmore Police and Reserves toy drive.

“We filled one police car, plus half of another one,” said Serena Luna, the wife of an Ardmore Police sergeant and a toy drive volunteer. “You can get a lot into a police car — we had to shut the doors, and the toys were coming through the windows. This was the first year to have a stuff-a-car, and it’s going to be a yearly thing now.”

The toy drive provides wrapped Christmas gifts for children of disadvantaged families in the surrounding communities. The deadline to apply has already passed, and families will pick up their batch of gifts between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. this Saturday at the police department in downtown Ardmore.

“We do ask that families be from the Ardmore and Elkmont areas, and we go outside the city limits,” said Ardmore Police Chief David Whitt. “We ask for proof of identity and proof of residence to safeguard against people who go around applying for assistance in different places. We actually received less applications this year, but it has let us do more for the kids.”

This year’s drive will provide assistance to 50 families, including a total of 120 children. Each child will receive five to six gifts, including toys, hats and gloves.

In addition to police department staff, reserves and their families, Ardmore merchants and residents also collected toys and provided monetary donations.

“All of the merchants get involved, and just about all of them put out boxes for people to leave toys, and we also received cash donations,” Whitt said. “I was really worried with the economy being the way it is, but people have been really generous.”

Luna, who has spearheaded the toy drive the past three years, coordinated this year’s drive with the help of Regina Hogan, the wife of an Ardmore reserve officer. She said the drive received more than $3,000 in monetary donations, plus hundreds of donated toys.

“I really want to thank the police department and Regina because they did an awesome job this year,” said Luna, the mother of five children. “For the majority of these kids, these gifts are the only things they’re getting for Christmas. Six of the kids asked for bikes, and all six got bikes. One asked for a Buzz Lightyear action figure, and he’s going to get one.

“I do foster care, and I can’t imagine a child going without Christmas.”