800 children benefit from annual toy drive

800 children benefit

Volunteers load toys into the MDPD Community Affairs bus.

A joint effort by the Hispanic Police Officers Association of Miami-Dade (HPOA), Miami-Dade Police Department, Early Development of Global Education Charitable Foundation (EDGE) and other volunteers, collected and distributed toys to more than 800 children of migrant families, domestic abuse victims and human trafficking victims in South Florida.

Lt. William Gonzalez of the MDPD, who is president of the HPOA, said they also partnered with the Homestead Police Department and he was happy to see everything coming together so effectively.

“It was an excellent toy drive,” Lt. Gonzalez said. “We reached 803 children in one evening and it was a great success. We couldn’t have done it without our partners, supporters, and volunteers.”

The collection of toys from drop off locations throughout the area began in early November, culminating in a caravan of vehicles that assembled in the parking lot at Southland Mall on Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. before heading out on a road trip that would last until well after midnight.

There were about 20 civilian vehicles in the caravan, along with 15 police cars to help out at intersections, with about 15 more cars joining later. The MDPD Community Affairs bus also was utilized as a “rolling toy store” in which youngsters could select their toys. The bus’ shelves were restocked from toys carried in volunteers’ trucks and SUV’s.

Mercy Hernandez, founder and president of the EDGE Charitable Foundation, was excited about the success of the effort.

“It was amazing,” Hernandez said. “We went to three stops and handed toys out to over 800 children in just that one night. Dr. Larry Feldman, his assistant, Miami- Dade Schools Police, the special human trafficking police unit, Homestead Police and Miami-Dade Police all collaborated to help the EDGE and HPOA accomplish this goal.”

The organizers also thanked LagasseSweet, Ed Gallagher Photography, Allied Paper Company, Old Cutler Academy Learning Center, BJ’s (Cutler Bay), Cutler Auto Repair, Cutler Bay Councilmember Peggy Bell, Group M Marketing and Design, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Bender, Kids Learning Center, Eric A Cohen of Cohen Chiropractic Center, St. Agatha’s School, Starbucks (SW 168th Street and Old Cutler Road), Traci Cole, Thinking of You Services, Walgreens (Allapattah) and all the countless volunteers and toy donors.

Volunteers from area schools and St. Agatha Church were decked out in Santa hats, elf hats and brightly colored T-shirts. There even was Santa Claus to meet with the kids after their toy selections.

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