Middle Tennessee State University’s Police Department and campus partners are getting in the holiday spirit by continuing the annual Little Raiders gift-giving campaign that helps provide cheer to local children. Retired Sgt Steve Scott started The Little Raiders campaign and was brought back to life by Sgt. Vergena Forbes more than a decade ago. The campaign serves underprivileged children in the MTSU community and children of domestic violence. “Some of our students are single parents in need who have very little money to spare when buying gifts for Christmas,” explained Forbes. “We also partner with the Rutherford County domestic violence shelter to help give recent child victims of domestic violence a nice Christmas. In most cases, the child and parent need to start over, and they have very little to start with and very little money to do so. This program helps all these parents have a nice Christmas for their children.”
Each year, trees adorned with paper ornaments and children’s needs and wish lists are placed at different locations across campus. MTSU employees, faculty, staff, alums, and students then select a Little Raider from the tree and do what they can to make their holiday wishes come true. “At MTSU, we like to say we’re a family, and it doesn’t matter what department you’re in; we always help each other out. We’re a small, close-knit community, and the Little Raiders is just another way to help members of our family,” Forbes said.
The Little Raider campaign is a collaborative effort made possible not only by University Police but also by MTSU Campus Recreation, Student Health Services, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, MTSU’s Nutrition and Dietetics Association, and Barnabas Vision. The campaign expects to help 30 to 40 children and their families this year. The recipients celebrate at a holiday party in December, where they, along with Santa Claus, are the guests of honor. “Santa gives them one toy, and they can take pictures with Santa. The remaining gifts purchased for each child are given to the families to put under their trees.” Forbes said. Any leftover gifts from the campaign are donated to the local community. “Whatever is not taken or used, I donate to the local Salvation Army Angel Tree program since they run their Christmas program longer,” Forbes explained.
While planning for the campaign is no easy task, Forbes said it’s something she and other officers in the department look forward to each year. “I have help from several of my officers here. It takes a lot of effort by the time it’s all finalized, but it makes me happy, and I enjoy doing it,” she said. Forbes said the Little Raiders campaign is important to her for many reasons, but it reminds her of why she decided to go into law enforcement more than 30 years ago. “It just makes me happy to help in a small way to make someone’s Christmas better,” she said. “I look forward to the Little Raiders campaign every year and knowing I was able to help this child and family celebrate.”