Stuff the Gazebo Toy Drive offers joy, hope to children suffering from abuse

Monroe Police Detective Nicole Buckley, left, and Officer Kyle Stevens drop off toys at The Center for Family Justice's Bridgeport headquarters last year.

MONROE, CT — Christmas is a magical time of year for children, but many young victims of domestic and sexual abuse, or children who live with a single parent who escaped an abuser, may not experience the same joy over the holidays or have toys under a tree this year.

Monroe police officers are hosting the first annual Stuff the Gazebo Toy Drive to brighten holiday spirits this year. The donations will be dropped off at The Center for Family Justice, benefiting children living in its domestic violence safe house, and those in the community whose families experienced domestic and sexual abuse.

“It’s something of concern to us,” Monroe Police Lt. Stephen Corrone said. “We want to provide this for the victims. This is near and dear to us, because we deal with them throughout the process.”

On Dec. 11, police will accept new unwrapped toys for children at the gazebo on the green at 7 Fan Hill Road from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The collection drive is for children from age one to 18. Among the donations police are looking for are superhero action figures, LOL Dolls, anything with dinosaurs, Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and gift cards, especially for the older kids.

“We’re trying to do the best we can for them, so we would appreciate it if the community came out and supported this,” Corrone said.

‘No kid should go without’

Debra A. Greenwood, president and CEO of The Center for Family Justice, said the nonprofit provides holiday gifts to more than 200 children, parents and caregivers impacted by domestic or sexual abuse.

“For many of our clients, these gifts are the only way they are able to provide their children with a meaningful holiday,” Greenwood said, “because of the abuse they’ve experienced, many of them are living with extreme financial hardship. They are struggling to make ends meet as they work to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of abuse.”

“If they didn’t receive the gifts from these toy drives and from our generous donors, many of them would not have their holiday wishes fulfilled,” she added. “No kid should go without at this magical time of year.”

Every day, police officers are the first line of safety and protection for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, according to Greenwood.

“This drive is just another example of the way the Monroe Police Department supports victims of abuse,” she said of Stuff the Gazebo. “It is really inspiring for all of us at CFJ to see the Monroe police engage in this effort on our behalf. Every year, the officers of Monroe go out of their way to make sure our client kids have the kind of holiday every kid deserves and we are so grateful.”

Greenwood said the Monroe Police Department conducts one of the largest and most successful toy drives for CFJ, adding the children they serve also benefit from the donations of community and civic groups and businesses.

“It’s amazing to see how much the community supports this effort and we love to see the enthusiasm and dedication of the officers who do this on their behalf,” Greenwood said.

In addition to toys, she said CFJ is always grateful to receive gift cards in denominations of $25 or less to stores including Target, Stop & Shop and Walmart.

“These kinds of gift cards help our clients make personal choices at the holidays for their kids and their family’s most immediate needs,” Greenwood said.

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