For the past six years, the town of Riverdale Park has coordinated several efforts to ensure that the neediest residents are warm, fed, and even supplied with gifts during the holiday season.
The town’s efforts include a charity coat drive, a canned food drive, county food basket distribution, toy distribution, and holiday “adoption” of needy families.
Riverdale Park is a participant in Toys for Tots, a national program that distributes toys to needy children during the holidays. However, in recent years, donations to Toys for Tots have decreased.
“They can only give out what they collect, and last year donations were really low,” said Colleen Ferguson, Riverdale Park’s code enforcement and community service manager. Ferguson is responsible for the coordination of the town’s efforts on behalf of needy residents.
“We have a lot of kids on our list, so we do not rely solely on Toys for Tots,” said Ferguson. “Without the the residents and town employees adopting families, we would have had to turn some families away.”
Local families are identified by council members, school administrators, apartment managers and other residents. Then they are adopted by town employees, neighbors, the Riverdale Park Police Department, the Riverdale Fire Department and District 3 Councilman Eric Olson’s office.
“It’s not about the toys or how many they get,” said Ferguson. “It’s about hope.”
The coat drive, done in conjunction with the Christian Life Center, is followed by a free dinner at the Alamo restaurant on Kenilworth Avenue, where the coats are distributed to those in need. According to Pastor Ben Slye, they hope to collect over 500 coats for those in need this year.
The town also does a canned goods drive at the town hall and at the annual holiday market. In addition, the Prince George’s County Community Services division also gives baskets of food to the town to distribute to Riverdale Park’s needy families. The town often supplements these baskets with things from its own food drive.
Ferguson says the town’s efforts have really taken off in the last three years, with the help of the Riverdale Park Fire Department. Around Christmas, the fire department delivers toys and food baskets with the help of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a firetruck.
The town is accepting coat donations or monetary donations for coats at the town hall until Thanksgiving. They will be accepting canned food donations through Christmas.
If you would like to suggest a family to be a recipient of a food basket and/or toys, volunteer to adopt a family or request the town’s assistance, please contact Colleen Ferguson at 301-898-2500 or email@example.com.