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Article Published November 24, 2020

MPD, Youth & Family Services Hope to See Residents Step Up for Food and Toy Drive

By Jesse Williams/

Though there won’t be any cruiser to stuff this year, the Madison Police Department (MPD) is still hoping to fill the homes of financially struggling Madison families, anticipating a significantly higher degree of need, according to MPD Captain Joe Race.

For the sake of safety, the MPD’s yearly fundraising drive outside of local grocery stores was determined not to be advisable during the pandemic, according to Race, and there will be no replacement events that involve gatherings.

But with the financial impact of the pandemic still being deeply felt in Madison and no sign of relief from the federal government before Christmas, Race said that he knows that the town’s big-hearted residents will step up to provide even more generous support, despite the lack of any single event or pageantry around the collection.

“The need this more than it has been,” Race said. “It is making it so challenging for us, because here we have a need and we can’t do the in-person stuff that we usually do...COVID is disrupting everything, but the need is only growing.”

Madison Youth & Family Services (MYFS), which identifies and facilitates the donations to families in need, is seeing an ever-growing list of people in town needing help with about 150 households currently in its caseload, according to MYFS Assistant Director for Community Support Catherine Barden.

Those numbers are only going to grow, Barden said, with MYFS expecting cold weather to precipitate even more requests for help.

In lieu of a cruiser or van to stuff, the MPD is now accepting donations at their station at Town Campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until Dec. 31, according to Race, with residents asked to simply bring their donations into the station lobby—no contact necessary.

Among the items MPD is asking for this year are food items like oil, sugar, flower, cookies, frozen turkeys, granola bars, and baby food, along with other essential products like tampons and pads, toothpaste, diapers, deodorant, soap, hand sanitizer, and paper towels.

Toys are also very needed, Race said, and the MPD is hoping residents donate some gift cards to make sure older children and teens have something to be excited about this holiday season.

“Just wave in the window, and the dispatcher will acknowledge [you],” Race said. “Should be the safest place in town.”

Race said that every holiday season, but again, this year even more so, the most essential items are going to be in high demand, including hygiene products, which often cannot be purchased with food stamps. Those products go to the food pantry, with any extra still offered as a “year-round need” for many families.

For the toys, MPD has usually allowed parents to come into the station and pick out items for their children to ensure that gifts are personal and not delivered randomly or based on age or gender. Race said it still might be possible to do that this year with one family at a time in a large room, though he said a final decision has not yet been made on this.

Barden said she anticipates a big need for toys of all kinds as well as giftcards to stores where holiday presents can be purchased, as there are plenty of families with children who are hoping to still have a holiday gift-opening of some kind. Exactly how many of the 150 identified families are going to need presents from the toy drive is still being worked out, she said.

Race also emphasized that distribution is kept extremely private, and only “a very small handful” of MPD officers ever know anyone’s identity.

With a cold, long, and extremely uncertain winter ahead, Race said in his experience, there have always been enough generous souls in town to make sure their neighbors don’t go without.

“The town and the townspeople have been so generous for so many years,” he said. “We need them this year.”