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Toys for Tots drive benefits kids, families in Lake County

The Lake Bluff Police Department sought to make a difference in the lives of others during the holiday season, hosting its 15th annual Toys for Tots Drive from Nov. 26 to Dec. 16.

This year’s Toys for Tots drive allowed the department to collect more than 500 toys, in part, because of Lake Bluff residents who dropped off donations at the village’s police station. All donations received went to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. By pairing up with Marine reserves, the Lake Bluff Police Department aimed to bring holiday cheer to a number of Lake County kids and their families.

Although donations were due on Dec. 16, the Lake Bluff Police Department continued to receive toys after the event ended.

“There were some late arrivals and we were able to get those out to charities,” said Police Chief David Belmonte.

He went on to explain how significant it is for the people in the community to help others in celebrating the holidays.

“I feel that it’s part of our mission as a police department to get involved in the community in different ways,” Belmonte said. “We feel obligated to do this. Everyone helps out and it’s a great event for all of us.”

Every year at about this time, Lake Bluff, as a whole, will decorate the town for the people in the community and anyone that passes through town sees that.

The village also entertains the people with various community events, whether it’s through Christmas caroling, celebrating the village’s annual “It’s A Wonderful Life in Lake Bluff” all-day event, or visiting with Santa at the Lake Bluff Public Library.

“Just like everybody else, we (as police officers) enjoy the festivities that go on,” Belmonte said.

He said the Toys for Tots drive serves as a good representation of the positive working relationship the Lake Bluff Police have with the members of the community.

Belmonte said as a whole, the village’s celebration of the holiday season signifies what it means to be a resident of Lake Bluff, where family is central.

He added that the village strives not only to hold events that aim to bring people together around the holiday season but throughout the year.

The effort to get involved in the community is nothing new for the police department.

According to Belmonte, the department first saw success when they decided to organize an annual food drive 30 years ago.

By 2000, the effort became too big of an event for the police department to conduct, leading them to turn over the effort to the COOL Food Pantry in Waukegan.

Belmonte said the Lake Bluff Police Department is interested without question in hosting another toy drive next year, explaining that it’s something they look forward to.

“I think any time you can help a family and a kid is good,” he said. “It’s a winner all around. If it makes a child’s holiday that much better, that’s just a wonderful thing.”