1212 STN police collection 1

Members of the Stonington Police Department stand outside a cruiser filled with donations in 2017. The agency will host the annual Stuff-A-Cruiser event again on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Courtesy Stonington Police Department via Facebook

STONINGTON — Neither snow nor rain will prevent local officers from donning a Santa cap in an effort to help those in need on Saturday.

With predictions for some heavy rain early on, Officer Kristy Murray stressed that members of the Stonington Police Department will be on hand at headquarters "regardless of weather" from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for their fifth annual Stuff-A-Cruiser toy collection drive.

"If we need to, we'll set up tents," Murray said with a chuckle.

The annual collection, which began in 2014 after Murray brought the idea to Police Chief J. Darren Stewart and Capt. Todd Olson, started with little fanfare. In its first year, there was no advertising and members of the department simply set up shop outside the 173 S. Broad St. station to collect from those who passed by or heard of the collection through word of mouth.

But Murray said the first event received a big response from the community, and it has grown each year.

In December 2017, members of the Formosa Yacht Club in Mystic pushed collection efforts over the top when they delivered 40 youth bicycles to the police collection. Murray said they had promised to build on that effort and were hoping to donate "at least 41" in 2018.

"We do this because we want to give back, and the community's response has just been amazing," she said.

Olson praised the program, noting that it is run independent of police operations at no cost to the department, while simultaneously giving officers the opportunity to give back. He said its growing popularity has led the union-led collection to develop into a popular annual celebration for the department and the police union as a whole.

The event is a bit later this year. Murray said the goal was to pair it with Stonington Human Services' annual celebration across the street, since all proceeds benefit clients of that agency. But Murray said the department is still hopeful that it will produce the best turnout to date.

Regardless of what the department receives, Murray said she and several other officers are excited to be able to do something good for the community and bring attention to a positive service offered in the community.

"There is so much negativity in the world right now, so to see the kind of response just shows that there is still good out there," Murray said.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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