San Bernardino Police Dept. hosts 5th Annual Stuff the Bearcat Toy Drive

Photos Ricardo Tomboc: Colette Metz and Tayler Rainwater from Highland learned about the toy drive on Facebook and were inspired to make a toy donation. From left: Colette Mertz, Officer Maestre, Taylor Rainwater, and Sergeant John Echevarria.

On Wednesday, December 2, the San Bernardino Police Department held its 5th Annual Stuff the Bearcat Toy Drive in front of the downtown station where doners could drive up and drop off toys.  The toy drive benefits both the San Bernardino County Salvation Army Hospitality House and Santa Claus Inc. 

Mom and Dad teaching daughters the spirit of giving. Each child hands over a toy to Officer Maestre. In no particular order are Ayden Ramos, 8, Mathew Moreno, 2, Caren Moreno, and Stacy Moreno.

The first Stuff the Bearcat Toy Drive was held in 2015 that started a tradition of giving.  Employees and various divisions within the SBPD would participate in this toy drive, collecting money throughout the year to purchase toys specifically for this event.  Sergeant John Echevarria and his team greeted and thanked donors as they made their toy deliveries. 

Mr. John Graham from Rialto, a former teacher at AB Miller High School, has been making wood toy cars from scrap wood all year long, and has been doing this for over 35 years.  After the cars are assembled, they are placed in nice cardboard boxes.  Mr. Graham makes hundreds of these wooden toys over the year and distributes them to several organizations for distribution to kids in need.

Manuel Steele, whose daughter Autumn took on a “9 Things of Kindness” challenge, delivered a couple of bags of toys to Officer Maestre.

Mr. Manuel Steele delivered a couple of bags of toys to Officer Maestre with an interesting story.  Manuel’s daughter, Autumn, took on a “9 Things of Kindness” challenge.  Autumn was afraid to leave her home due to COVID-19, so Manuel did the shopping and delivering on behalf of Autumn.  Today Manuel delivered toys, but in the past few days he has delivered to others more toys, coats, and blankets, with plans to deliver books and personalized handwritten notes from Autumn to police and fire departments. 

Officer Castro (right) is holding a miniature Yorkie that blended well with the toys in the background. The owner of the Yorkie wanted a photo of her puppy along with her toy donation, held by Officer Maestre (left).

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, making it difficult for donors and those in need.  The traditional Salvation Army Bell Ringing program was severely cut short this year causing a shortfall of funding for food, shelter, special programs, and services throughout the year.  At Santa Claus Inc., thieves have broken into their San Bernardino warehouse several times this year; and in one break-in alone, 5.000 items were taken.