Stuart Anderson, the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) Communications Director, witnessed a lot of joy as he helped Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) personnel deliver hundreds of gifts through the 7D Toy Drive.
Anderson remembers one visit to a Woodland family in particular. “In the home, they had a tree,” he said, “but there were no toys under the tree.”
One little boy was handed a present, and immediately started unwrapping it, Anderson recalled, laughing. The child was so excited he just ripped it open, unable to hear Anderson’s message from Santa that he should wait until Christmas. Discovering it was a Hot Wheels car set, he began dancing around the room. Anderson left elated, wishing that he had captured the child’s pure joy on video.
The gift delivery was part of the 51st Annual 7D Toy Drive, organized by the DC Police Foundation, Starbucks and the ACC. Over the eight years it has been involved, ACC has invited guests to a Multicultural Holiday Celebration at the Anacostia Playhouse, asking for donations of unwrapped toys as part of admission. Then, gifts were distributed to children at a holiday party hosted by the DC Police Foundation at the Panorama Room.
This year, there were no parties, but organizers were determined that there would be a toy drive. ACC organized a virtual “paint and sip” Multicultural Holiday Celebration, offering free kits to the first 40 people to donate an unwrapped toy.
ACC members and 7D officers worked to gather donations, which were dropped off at the 7D Station between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18 or collected from donors’ homes and businesses by ACC members. Local organizations also worked to gather toys, including Friends and Family of Incarcerated Persons (FFIP), the Jewish Community of Am Kolel, and the DC Democratic State Committee.
The toys were distributed by the 7D Community Outreach Team to children throughout Ward 8 between Dec. 14 and Christmas Eve. More than 500 children received gifts of toys and coats this year, delivered to neighborhoods such as Highland, Bellevue, Anacostia, Hillsdale and Parklands. “We try to touch as many families as possible,” Anderson said.
7D Commander Andre Wright said that the Toy Drive is more important this year than ever. “This holiday initiative is so very vital because so many of our youth within Ward 8 often times don’t receive Christmas gifts, as many parents are working two to three jobs just to provide for their children,” he said. “We are excited each year to bless the youth with toys and coats to bring joy to them during the holiday season.”
Growing up in Ward 8, Carolyn Davis was one of the kids who excitedly opened a gift from 7D officers. She remembers how the police officers would come collect students from her school, Mary Church Terrell Elementary, and bring them to the party where treats and gifts were distributed. “It was a bright joy to me to go to that party,” she recalled.
Davis credits the experience with making her want to be part of the police department, where she started as a cadet before switching mid-stream to a civilian role. She now serves as the MPD 7D Community Outreach Coordinator (MPD), helping to organize that same Toy Drive event.
“It was a wonderful time,” Dais said. “The impact it had on my childhood stays with me even now.”