SHORELINE — With the holidays quickly approaching elves all along the Shoreline are stepping up to ensure everyone’s celebration is full of cheer.

Many local residents add their less fortunate neighbors and friends to their holiday lists for annual holiday drives, sponsored by local police departments.

“It’s for all the holidays,” says Sgt. Martina Jakober of the Guilford Police Department. “For Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, all the different holidays that people celebrate.”

Whether it is a gift card, a tote full of groceries, a toy or game, they bring joy to the less fortunate.

For some communities, this year’s charitable giving looks a bit different.

The Guilford Police Department Holiday Gift Drive 2020 has taken on a new look in light of COVID-19.

“Normally we do a gift drive,” says Jakober. “Because of COVID and all the dangers and everything else, with everything spiking, the best thing to do this year is gift cards because we know it’s going to go to a family that’s in need and they can get what they need to get without putting anyone at risk.”

Jakober stressed that gift cards can be purchased with any age in mind – from infant to seniors. The department is working on this project in conjunction with the Guilford Fire Department, Guilford Social Services and Guilford Youth and Family Services.

“We’re trying to get out to the community that it does not really matter the age, there’s a need within the community and we’re working best to address anyone who has that need this year,” says Mike Kosko, youth prevention specialist at Guilford Youth and Family Services.

Contributions can be purchased from restaurants, local boutiques, big box stores, ice cream and coffee shops. They can be dropped off at the police station at 400 Church St., Guilford until Tuesday, Dec. 22.

“It doesn’t have to be anything in particular, it’s just something that you know somebody could use,” Jakober says. “We know now this year, more than ever, we have more families that are in need and we also have a lot of seniors.”

To the east, the Madison Police Department Food and Toy Drive is currently underway. The department is asking all donations be dropped off at the police station at 9 Campus Drive, Madison. The drive ends Thursday, Dec. 31.

In years past the department has collected food at local grocery stores, but due to COVID-19 they will not be able to collect at those locations.

Suggested donations include toys, in addition to turkeys, canned goods, pancake mix, hand soap, toothpaste, diapers and laundry detergent. A complete list can be found Madison 911 Dispatchers Facebook.

Madison Police Department Capt. Joseph Race stresses that individuals on any kind of assistance program cannot use their subsidy on personal hygiene items such as deodorant, feminine hygiene products, shaving cream, soaps, toothpaste, paper products and diapers.

“We collect these things and our first goal is the food pantry in town,” says Race. “We make sure they get all that because those are items everyone needs.”

In addition, toys are being collected for infants to youths 17-years-old.

“Everyone loves to buy the younger kids toys because they’re the cutest,” says Race.

“But every year we run into a problem with the older kids,” he adds. “It’s the 8 to 17-year-olds. We do take donations and we will buy gift cards with that money for the older kids.”

Race stresses that the need grows every year.

“Everyone likes to think that it’s Madison and we don’t have these needs and that is not true,” says Race.

“We do have a need in town and despite the appearances of what everyone things Madison is, there’s still a lot of need,” he adds.

Any items that are not distributed in Madison will be donated to domestic violence and homeless shelters, in addition to Yale New Haven Hospital Children’s Hospital and Marine Toys for Tots.

After 11 years of spearheading this project, along with Chief John “Jack” Drumm, Race is always impressed with the community’s generosity.

“It’s amazing what we get,” he says. “It’s a fantastic community to work for and work in. To work with that spirit of neighbors helping neighbors, it’s amazing, it really is. It’s impressive.”

To distribute all these donations, Race stresses that safety is paramount.

“We going to try our darndest to make this work this year and we’re going to be very safe,” he says.

“So, we’re trying to work as hard as we can, with the parameters, to still do everything we need to do because the need doesn’t care that there’s COVID,” he adds.

In Clinton, toys will be collected for the Marines Toys for Tots. Last year’s bounty, the largest in the 27 years of the program, filled a trailer, about 10-feet-long, 7-feet-high and 8-feet-wide; eight pickup trucks and five police cruisers.

This year there are two new ways to give in town. At the police station, as well as other businesses around town, giving trees are set up.

The trees are adorned with tags listing specific requests for gifts. The tags can be removed and affixed to the specific gift that will be delivered to the recipient.

All gifts will be distributed with assistance from Clinton Social Services.

In addition, Social Services has created an Amazon account to order gifts that will be sent directly to the police department.

Gifts can be ordered by visiting the Clinton Human Services Gift Program for Children at Amzn.to/3lc3AVt.

As with the giving trees, included in this registry are gifts that have been specifically requested by local families in need.

The gifts will be mailed directly to the police station and added to the toy drive.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to give back to the community and give back to the children,” says Litsa Aniskovich, a board member on the Clinton Human Services Advisory Board who worked on creating the Amazon account.

“I think, especially in this time when the economy is bad, to just brighten someone’s day, I think that’s what this is all about,” she adds.

The last day to deliver gifts is Friday, Dec. 18 to the Clinton Police Department, 170 East Main St., Clinton.

“We do it to help the community,” says Sgt. Bryan Pellegrini. “There’s kids out there less fortunate than us, that don’t get a Christmas.

“The times are tough and parents can’t afford it, so we do this to supplement their Christmas, so they can have a nice Christmas,” adds Pellegrini.

Every year the Shoreline police departments are overwhelmed by the generosity of their communities.

“One of the best feelings is the way the community comes together,” says Pelligrini. “We spearhead the toy drive, but it’s the community that donates and that’s huge.”

Guilford Police Department, 400 Church St., Guilford, 203-453-8061; Holiday Gift Drive 2020, Contact Lucy Krauchick or Sgt. Jakober, 203-453-8244.

Madison Police Department, 9 Campus Drive, Madison; 203-245-2721

Clinton Police Department, 170 East Main St., Clinton; 860-669-0451; Clinton Social Services, 669-7347. Gifts can be ordered by visiting the Clinton Human Services Gift Program for Children at Amzn.to/3lc3AVt.

Connecticut Media Group