WHITMAN — Getting down to the wire with wrapping and rushing to meet the holiday deadlines, many families took a break this weekend to slow down and share in free events offered by Whitman Recreation and to give back at the Whitman Police, through the annual Stuff-A-Cruiser event.
The Recreation party was a family friendly experience with crafts, face painting and other activities held at the Town Hall on Saturday with a visit from the big guy himself.
Photos were welcomed with Santa who read many lists from all the children.
A family movie night was also held with snacks and a showing of the movie “Polar Express” in the Town Hall Auditorium later in the day.
The week before Christmas is full of activity for Whitman Area Toy Drive as the group planned to assist local families — aiding some 500 families by season’s end.
Co-organizers Donnie Westhaver and Jane Plasse, who started Whitman Area Toy Drive to aid those in need 19 years ago said they have seen an increase in need from years past.
Paul Colgate also a partner of the Whitman Area Toy Drive now in his fourth year came aboard with the organization after seeing the difference the collaboration was creating for people in hardship.
“I thought what they were doing is incredible and I have stayed ever since,” said Colgate who was accepting boxed toys.
With an influx of traffic through the parking lot, many families were pulling up to drop bags off and helpers were placing them in the backs of the two Whitman cruisers. At the end of the event the collection filled six cruisers to the roof.
Families who dropped in to also meet Santa were treated to light refreshments, cocoa and coffee served with a stuffed animal gift, which was given to the littlest ones in return for their kindheartedness. It was cold and breezy but thoughtfulness warmed the air.
Officers Dave Hickey and Kevin Harrington who along with other officers also had their families along to assist said during the event that it was going “awesome.”
Tillman the dog tried to assist with the toy donations with his owner Officer Hickey but he was too distracted by the crumbs from the sweets – he did, however, give plenty of kisses to everyone who greeted him as a thank you for the donations.
Julia Harrington, a senior at Whitman Hanson who is planning on majoring in forensic biology next fall, has attended the event for the last three years and volunteers with her father.
She said she is happy to see the difference the event makes and plans to return from college next year to attend.
“Giving kids the toys they may not be able to afford on Christmas… it means a lot,” she said.
In collaboration with the food pantry Westhaver said
They are planning to assist 500 families total from this event with a holiday meal and gifts.
The requests for toys this year included an increase in craft items and science-themed games and toys. Plasse posted a thank you message on social media on behalf of the Whitman Area Toy Drive.
Plasse extended her gratitude for the Sunday event, which was held at the Whitman police department parking lot.
“I would like to say thank you for everyone’s generosity … to our community,” she said. “With everyone’s help, we filled six cruisers with new unwrapped toys and gift cards for the older kids. These donations will help many families have a nice Christmas this year. I would also like to say a special Thank You to Kevin Harrington and Dave Hickey for putting on this annual event for the past four years to benefit the Whitman Area Toy Drive. Without this event many families would not be having a nice Christmas. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.