The holidays are a difficult time for many low-income families, and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Toy Project, along with other organizations, is helping to alleviate some of the stress associated with providing holiday gifts for children.
Since 1985, the Sheriff’s Toy Project, organized by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD), has collected food, toys and built toys to donate to those in need. Throughout the season local collection boxes are set up at numerous locations for toy donations. The toys are then sorted and distributed on Dec. 19.
Deputy Scott Anderson has worked with the SCSD for many years and recently became Toy Project Coordinator.
“[The Toy Project] was started by a deputy that just wanted to help families in need, and it has since grown. It started out as like 20 families or something like that. … Last year we did 2,000 families and almost 8,000 kids out of that got toys and food,” Anderson said. “It fosters a relationship between law enforcement and the community. Because the whole thing is [run] by law enforcement it shows that we are concerned and we are trying to help the community the best we can.”
The Toy Project helps families throughout the year in addition to their work during the holidays. It also seeks to serve as many families as possible, targeting those who are most in need, such as ones who have lost their homes.
“On some of the applications [the families] only ask for food; they don’t even ask for toys and things — so hopefully we can provide some hope for them and let them know that people do care, that there are people out there who care,” said Terrie Hunt, Sheriff’s Toy Project District One coordinator.
Although the Toy Project does get some volunteer help, work release inmates do much of the job behind the scenes.
“Our main workforce is work release inmates… They build the benches and the stuff that we sell and raffle to make money. They pull all the toys, sort them out. They do all the work on the bicycles … As the deputies, we’re here to supervise them and to organize the whole thing,” Anderson said.
Working with work release inmates provides further community outreach for the Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the Sheriff’s Toy Project partners with other organizations to further enhance families’ holiday experience.
“The Sheriff’s Department has partnered with the Salvation Army, as we do every year, through our Sheriff’s Toy Project, and they provide usually a frozen chicken or a frozen turkey and a box of non-perishable food for the families that qualify for our program,” said crime prevention specialist Laura Grossman.
The Salvation Army is able to help the Sheriff’s Toy Project provide food for families in addition to the toys they collect and make. Similarly, the Toy Project helps other organizations including the Rancho Cordova Christmas in Cordova event. Like the Sheriff’s Toy Project, Christmas in Cordova helps families in need by providing gifts for their children during the holidays. The event is unique in that it gives parents the opportunity to look through the donated goods and pick out gifts for their own children.
“The Sheriff’s Toy Project [helps] sponsor a few of the gifts. We do one shopping spree with them to help supplement some of the gifts that we didn’t get,” said Heidi Herrera, crime prevention specialist for the East Division and Rancho Cordova.
The Sheriff’s Toy Project has toy drop-off locations throughout Sacramento to collect as many toys as possible before the distribution day on Dec. 19.
For more information about the Sheriff’s Toy Project and toy drop off locations, visit toyproject.org.