By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Rudolph was looking like a hit-and-run victim Saturday morning as Westport police officers stood curbside with him in front of Border Grill at 1560 Post Road East. It was the department’s annual holiday toy drive and the combination of a cross wind and faulty blower left the inflatable venison sitting down on the job.
No matter, though, as Westporters know the drill and exactly where to pull up to hand off their donations to the cause.
The drive began December 10 and will run through Sunday, December 17, with officers volunteering onsite in two-hour shifts 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, ready to collect new unwrapped toys for children age 12 and under, as well as cash donations.
“This year was a little slow in the start but has picked up,” said Officer Michael Gudziki. “A lady this morning said she got a good bonus and gave us $40.” Cash donations are used to purchase additional toys.
Officer Albert Nowinski added, “We are also accepting toy drop-offs at police headquarters, 50 Jesup Road, during the drive. One gentleman last week dropped off a carload of Toys ‘R Us toys.”
Some toys go to Norwalk Community Center for distribution to needy families. Others go to the Town of Westport’s Human Services and Housing Department. The balance is loaded into a box truck provided by A&J’s Farm Stand and taken to St. Charles Church in Bridgeport. The haul includes toys collected at certain area stores, like Crate & Barrel and Athletic Shoe Factory, that are offering shoppers a purchase discount in return.
Westporter Jilda Manikas, who stopped to donate games, said she supports the effort every year. “This is awesome and convenient and nice for kids,” she said. “It’s almost a selfish act as it makes us feel so good.”