Shoppers help ‘stuff a cruiser’ for police holiday drive

  • Cruisers outside the Walmart in Hadley for a stuff-a-cruiser event on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/Scott Merzbach

Staff Writer
Published: 12/15/2019 10:51:18 PM

HADLEY — Blue lights flashing from parked police cruisers greeted shoppers at the Walmart store at Mountain Farms Mall throughout the day on Sunday.

But with Santa Claus accompanying several officers from local police departments, customers quickly learned that there was no emergency taking place, but rather a first-time “stuff-a-cruiser” effort focused on brightening the holidays for children and families in need.

By mid-afternoon, both a University of Massachusetts police truck and an Amherst Police SUV were filled with hundreds of toys, numerous clothes and diapers and a variety of non-perishable food, with a third cruiser ready to be packed with similar goods.

UMass Police Sgt. Matthew Malo said the event was organized so police officers could interact with shoppers and talk about the needs for people in the community.

“We’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Malo said.

After officers greeted people and explained the mission, some completed their shopping by getting a toy to put in the cruiser, such as a Barbie doll, a Matchbox truck or Play-Doh.

All the items will be delivered to several local nonprofits, including the Center for Human Development’s Jessie’s House in Amherst, the only housing for homeless families in Hampshire County; the Bridge Family Resource Center; and the Amherst Survival Center, as well as the Toys for Tots campaign organized by Springfield television station WWLP.

The officers on hand also were able to provide assistance to shoppers as they completed their shopping, such as helping one customer carry a large and unwieldy mirror back to her vehicle.

Amherst Police Detective Marcus Humber said some of the toys will go toward the drive underway at his department, which continues through this week where people can drop off unwrapped toys and gift cards at the police station, 111 Main St.

Children who accompanied their parents not only got to see Santa, but could also check out the inside of a police cruiser.

Malo said he would like to see the event be held annually, as other departments in the region do. “I hope we can do this for years to come,” Malo said.

The stuff-a-cruiser event came a day after many of the same officers participated in a “cop on top” fundraiser, also at Walmart, in which several stood on the roof of the building, in cold, damp weather, to raise money for Special Olympics.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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