It is 6:11 p.m. at Harrison Shopping Center, and one police cruiser is almost full of Christmas toys stuffed into the backseat and even the trunk. Last year they filled four cruisers. Officer Michael Keen says people were stopping by before they even started accepting donations at 6 p.m.
The parking lot is blocked off with bright flashing cruisers ready for the Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive sponsored by the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD.) Other locations in Shirlington Village and Our Lady of Lourdes are also collecting toys on Nov. 28 with Pentagon Row collecting on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Cars drive by slowly and children jump out, clutching boxes of airplanes and Star Wars and all of their own favorite toys to donate, and officer Kwame Domfe says, "Here comes a stuffed bear; they love those." He says that Legos were the big thing last year.
Three-year-old Alex Pollack struggles to lift the large Fisher-Price box with an airplane to Corporal Beth Lennon. He pushes the red button, and a large noise reverberates through the parking lot. A woman brings unwrapped toys in plastic bags because she doesn't want to risk having them get dirty.
Keen says they get hundreds of toys, which are taken to a location for sorting into age-appropriate piles. Then when a child approaches them in line for Operation Santa they can just reach to the right place. Keen says they get a good variety of toys.
Keen says the toys will be distributed to children in low-income areas of Arlington during the month of December. "We know a lot of these kids because we interact with them all year in literacy programs or summer camp. It's great when they come running up to give you a hug. This is continuity, seeing the full circle."