TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Cops, Kids & Toys is one local organization that helps get toys to kids in need every holiday season. This year’s deliveries will reach more children in Tompkins County than ever.
The program launched in the early 1980s when Ithaca Police Department officers started bringing gifts to a handful of families in need. Today, officers from every law enforcement agency in Tompkins County, probation officers, and volunteers from across the community collect and distribute toys for hundreds of families in need in Tompkins County.
“What started with two or three children has now blossomed to, this year, 1,378 children in 640 families in Tompkins County,” said Bill Apgar, president of Cops, Kids & Toys.
Apgar said the organization works year-round to fundraise and collect toys for the holiday season. When they receive families’ applications in the fall, they calculate how many toys have been donated and how many they need to buy to meet the need.
“We’ll compare the number of toys we have with the number of children we have to provide for,” Apgar said, “and we buy the shortfall of toys, which usually runs us around $30,000 to $40,000.”
Apgar coordinates with Walmart store manager Robert Daley as early as June to make sure enough toys will be in stock. Daley said he’s always happy to help community causes like the toy drive and notes Walmart “is one of the few businesses that has the volume to handle this kind of event.”
Check out a video below by Ithaca Voice Videographer Jacob Mroczek, who gives a look behind the scenes of Cops, Kids & Toys.
Cops, Kids & Toys also coordinates with the local Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which is one of the organization’s oldest programs. In addition to toys, they also provide clothing and food to more than 220 families in need in Tompkins County, Stacy McNeil, lieutenant of the Ithaca Salvation Army said.
A common thread between the two programs is that they show the depth of community generosity.
McNeil said she has been a part of The Salvation Army for a long time and moved to Tompkins County this year.
“The one thing that is unbelievable about Ithaca is that we have over half of our families … that have been adopted out by sponsors,” McNeil said. For the rest of the gifts they need to provide, they have the Angel Tree Program.
More than a hundred volunteers already contributed time to the Cops, Kids & Toys program, but for those still looking for a way to pitch in this holiday season, The Salvation Army still has a strong need of bell ringers. Contact them at 607-273-2400 for more information.
All photos by Managing Editor Kelsey O’Connor.