The Matawan Municipal Community Center looked a lot like Santa's workshop on Wednesday night. Presents - including cameras, bicycles, toys and teddy bears - lined the walls of an old classroom in the building, wrapped and ready to go.
For the eleventh year in a row, the Matawan Police Benevolence Association #179 (PBA) collected toys, food and monetary donations for families struggling financially over the holidays.
Collection boxes were placed in police headquarters, ShopRite, Quick Check, Freehold Buick GMC, Matawan Municipal Community Center and Panther Press in early November. The Kat Shack held a benefit for the cause, and the PBA also collected food donations and monetary donations.
"We also give the families food. Pancake mix for Christmas morning, something for lunch and all the fixings for a Christmas dinner, including a turkey," said Matawan Borough Police Officer Jeff Bodner, who organizes the Annual Toy/Food Drive.
The PBA receives names of families in need from the Matawan Food Pantry, the school district and by word of mouth.
And although the gifts do not arrive on Santa's sleigh, they are delivered by police car and ambulance with the help of the Matawan First Aid Squad.
The best part, however, is seeing the children excited to open the gifts they didn't expect to receive, Bodner said.