There were no jingling bells or reindeer-led sleighs on hand. Instead, Santa’s helpers had badges and unmarked SUVs to distribute donated items to those in need.
Monday, Graves County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management officials loaded up items collected through November’s “Cram the Cruiser” campaign and delivered them to Mayfield-Graves County Need Line and Food Pantry, Lighthouse and Community Christmas Connection. Those items will then be provided to people in need this holiday season.
Captain Jeremy Prince has overseen the “Cram the Cruiser” program since 2018. The effort partners with local Dollar General stores, where a sheriff’s cruiser is parked during the month and people can leave non-perishable food and personal hygiene items and toys.
Prince said donations were down a bit this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and additional Dollar General stores, which shortened the duration of the cruiser at each stop.
“In (2018 and 2019), we had 10 Dollar General stores and we could stay three days at each Dollar General. Now with 13 (stores) and having to get some items delivered as quick as we can, we had a cruiser at each store for two days and we cut three days out with Thanksgiving, (Monday) and the day before,” he said.
“But still, we had a good year and collected a lot of items. We do appreciate everyone who donated,” Prince added. “They’re the ones who make the sacrifice to buy these items. We just collect, sort and deliver. We appreciate everyone taking the time to donate to others who are less fortunate at this time.”
The effort collected 1,946 items from the Food Pantry, 833 toys, and 700 items for Lighthouse. The group’s first stop Monday was to the Food Pantry. Director Jackie Herndon said the donations come at a needed time.
“We’re getting into our busy time,” he said. “Now, people will start seeing higher electric bills and are going to be struggling to buy food. This will give us the opportunity to provide what they need.”
Herndon said people could still donate food items at the pantry from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. He added vegetables are a needed item at the pantry.
Graves County Sheriff Jon Hayden, also on hand to help deliver collected goods, commended Prince for his work with the “Cram the Cruiser” effort and the community for helping others.
“That says a lot that there are a lot of really good people in the world and more importantly at home here in Mayfield and Graves County,” he said.
Unfortunately due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions, Hayden said his department would not be able to host its annual holiday “Shop with a Deputy” either, but rather the sheriff’s office has been looking at alternative ways to help in the community.
“There’s been a lot of people who have reached out to us wanting to know how they can funnel donations and things to people really in need,” Hayden said. The sheriff said his office has been working with area churches to identify people in need and will be distributing gift cards from some private donations a little closer to Christmas.
“We want to make sure we get these items to people who genuinely, genuinely need them. That’s key with any of these programs that find people who really need it and a lot of times those are the folks who aren’t asking for it because of pride,” he said.
Anyone who would like to donate to that effort or any church that may know of people in need can contact the sheriff’s office at 270-247-4501.