LANDOVER – Christmas came early for hundreds of children who live in Prince George’s County as their parents were able to get free toys at the annual Toys for Tots giveaway program.
More than 7,000 county families came to the Prince George’s County Police Department headquarters in Landover for the program that is held every year in December to allow parents who cannot afford to buy toys from their children to ability to receive free toys.
“This year, with the help from the Prince George’s County Fire Department and other county agencies, we able to collect more than 45,000 new toys,” said Deputy Police Chief Raphael Grant.
Many parents slept in their cars overnight in the parking lot of the headquarters to make sure they were first in line when the doors opened. At times the line stretched down the sidewalk and around the corner.
“Not only are there toys packed to the gills, but there are men and women in uniform packed to the gills as well helping,” said Police Chief Hank Stawinski. “The idea behind this is we create a better year to come for children in our community, and we continue down this road where we consistently engage and consistently improve the quality of life across the board.”
The gymnasium of the headquarters looked like Santa’s workshop with thousands of toys organized into piles.
One of the biggest items that parents were able to get for their children was bicycles. The Prince George’s County Volunteer Firefighters Association donated more than 125 bicycles to the giveaway program. Of the 125-plus bicycles that were donated, 70 were donated to the association by Branchville Volunteer Fire Department in College Park.
“It’s just our part to give back to the community,” said John Gardiner, president of Branchville Volunteer Fire Department. “We know that some parents just cannot afford to buy their child a bicycle, so it’s just our part to make sure they can have something special to give to their children on Christmas day.”
By the end of the day all 45,000 toys were given away, Grant said.