Santa and Ms. Claus

Last year the Hillsborough Police Department held their annual toy drive, collecting toys and gifting them to children. This year, they will host the event on Dec. 13.

Holiday’s often sneak up before we know it, the turkey has been carved and Christmas lights have being strung. 

Though it’s known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” for some, the holidays don’t pass by so easily. 

During the holiday season, giving back can be a gift in itself. Even a small donation of a toy or a canned good can make a huge difference in a family’s life. It could make the choice between putting food on the table or presents under a tree just a little easier.

While there are many reasons people may be having a hard time this holiday season, here are few opportunities to give back and spread a little bit of cheer to others in the community.

Toy Drive

For over 15 years, the Hillsborough Police Department has collected toys during the holiday season and invited every child up to age 15 in the community to come out and receive a gift.

Donations are being collected until noon on Dec. 13. That evening, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will make an appearance for the children who come out to receive a gift from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Officer Mercy Meow, a kitten officer, is also expected to make an appearance at the event. However, she is subject to go on desk duty if the event is too exciting.

“Kids are always excited to see super heroes, bicycles and plush stuffed animals. Every toy that goes out the door goes with a smiling child,” said Lt. Andy Simmons. “With that being said, any toy that helps that child smile is our favorite donation.”

According to Lt. Simmons, around 400 to 600 toys are donated every year. If any toys are left over, they are then donated to daycares and delivered by Santa’s Secret Service, complete with a special blue police Santa suit. Any extras can also be included in the packages given to the families sponsored by the police department.

Angel Trees

Angel Trees are also a great way to tailor donations to specific people. Hosted by the Salvation Army, Angel Trees feature tags with names of a person as well as sizing information and a wish list. 

Upon choosing to sponsor an Angel, a promise is made to gift the item to the individual on the tag. The donations are dropped off at their site at 909 Liberty St., Durham.

Donations are then paired with their Angel’s information at the Toy Shop and are put aside for the angel to pick up. Not only can you sponsor an Angel, you can also volunteer to work in the toy shop to help arrange the gifts for distribution.

One can sponsor an Angel or volunteer at or pick up a tag at any of their community partnership locations.


Orange Congregations In Mission is a local non-profit that provides services such as Meals on Wheels and a food pantry. The food pantry accepts donations year-round and features a list of items to donate depending on the month. 

November’s recommended donations are tuna and canned chicken, while December’s include personal care items such and deodorant, detergent and diapers.

Rev. Sharon S. Freeland, executive director of OCIM, reminds donators that the calendar can be used as a guideline to know what items are needed, though any item on the calendar is always welcome no matter the month. 

Some items cannot be accepted, such as medication, partially opened items and “home-canned” food.

Rev. Freeland notes that there is usually an uptick in donations around the holidays as some families will get together and shop specifically for items to donate. 

Donations are also instrumental throughout the year, Rev. Freeland noted.

Recently, a family in need after the devastation from Hurricane Florence was able to be helped thanks to the donations OCIM had received. 

“Friends of a local family evacuated from the eastern part of the state prior to Hurricane Florence,” Rev. Freeland said. “They only planned on staying for a couple of days, but found out their home had been damaged due to flooding. Suddenly, a household of three became a household of eight.

“The OCIM food pantry was able to help the expanded household with food until other arrangements could be made.”

When food is donated, each donation is weighed, recorded and checked thoroughly for expiration dates and item condition before being placed in the pantry.

When people come in to request assistance from the pantry, each “shopping list” is filled by a volunteer for a week of food. Also taken into account is the number of people to feed and any sort of allergies.

Included with every grocery order is a personal care package, which is why donations of items such as shampoo and toilet paper are so important.

Donations are accepted weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 300 Millstone Dr. in Hillsborough. Volunteer opportunities are also available.