NORTH SMITHFIELD – A group of local youth, working with guidance and help from members of the North Smithfield Police Department, aims to bring Christmas toys to 22 town children in need, and is seeking the community’s help with donations of new, unwrapped gifts.
The NSPD Explorers will hold a toy drive this weekend at the Dowling Village Walmart to benefit town families identified through collaboration with the North Smithfield School Department. The group will be collecting items at a booth inside the store on Friday, Dec. 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 9 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Explorers program, started in 2019, is open to young people between the ages of 14 and 20, and currently has 11 participants. The police community outreach initiative is open to youth who have a record of good school attendance, and no negative contacts with law enforcement other than minor traffic violations, and preference is given to North Smithfield residents.
Explorers get the chance to attend sessions with the NSPD where they learn about the day-to-day work of town police officers, and participate in hands-on activities including physical training, crime scene processing, accident reconstruction and more. The Explorers are also called upon to assist N.S. police at community events, including PumpkinFest, and efforts such as the annual Christmas drive. This year, Dets. Steven Donovan and Gregory Chito; Lts. Gregory Landry and Joshua Nelson; and School Resources Officers Chrystal Lin-Cabral and Cliff Huynh are working with the group.
They began the holiday initiative last weekend, collecting dozens of toy at the North Smithfield store on Saturday, Dec. 2, to be distributed through the local chapter of Toys for Tots.
This weekend, however, the focus becomes local, with all items collected to be given solely to North Smithfield students. Last year, 19 students were given presents through the program and in 2023, the goal is to benefit 22 kids.
“We do one for Toys for Tots and two for our own town,” explained Valerie Orellana, administrative assistant to the chief.
The toys collected this weekend will be added to funds already secured over the past two months through a second initiative – in hopes to provide the families with a complete Christmas holiday.
“The funds we raise from our No Shave/Nail Polish November and Double Down December are 100 percent used to purchase any and all necessary items for families in town during Christmas,” said Orellana. “We provide not only toys, but clothes, groceries and home items for the entire family in need, including the care givers.”
To help out, just bring a new, unwrapped toy to the location at 7 Dowling Village Blvd. during either drive this weekend.