As beards grow in Millsboro, so do spirits: Whiskers for Wishes earns $10,000 for needy

MILLSBORO — Christmas spirit is certainly prevalent in Millsboro.

And that spirit is growing every year.

Millsboro Police Cpl. Matthew Dufour carries gifts destined for a needy family during Whiskers for Wishes 2020. Submitted photos

Wednesday was gift-distribution day, the culmination of Whiskers for Wishes — a partnership program launched in 2016 between Grace United Methodist Church and the Millsboro Police Department.

While the inaugural event earned $1,535, 2020’s endeavor topped $10,000, thanks to support from citizens and the business community.

Santa Claus was on hand at Grace UMC on Wednesday, as participating Millsboro police officers — some sporting beards and mustaches permitted through a waiver granted by Town Council — picked up scores of wrapped gifts earmarked for 14 families in need.

“It is a complete partnership between community, Grace Church and us. It’s that circle. We could not do this without Grace (UMC). We couldn’t do this without the community,” Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway said. “Without that complete partnership, this would not be successful. That is what is so humbling to me every time we do this. This is just everybody working together for one reason, and that is how it becomes such a success.”

Grace United Methodist Church has been a partner with Millsboro Police Department since the inception of Whiskers for Wishes. Helping during the gift distribution Wednesday are Grace UMC family life coordinator Cari Ossman, front, and Bridget Townley, Grace UMC administrative assistant.

This year’s total tally was $10,300. It eclipses last year’s record amount, $6,515.14, which followed $5,556.31 in 2018 and $3,070 in 2017.

Millsboro Mayor Michelle Truitt helped on distribution day.

“I was very surprised yet ecstatic that so many people have contributed to this wonderful program. It’s helped so many needy families. And the look on their faces when they came to collect their gifts, it was just a wonderful thing that we could help them with the Christmas season, especially this year,” said Mayor Truitt. “With so many people out of work or having problems making ends meet, it was an inspiring event.”

Families with children are selected by school counselors in consultation with Grace United Methodist Church, the Whiskers for Wishes’ program partner since its inception.

In return for a monthly pledge donation of $20 for two months, sworn members of the Millsboro Police Department participating in Whiskers for Wishes can grow facial hair through the waiver approved by Town Council.

Town of Millsboro Mayor Michelle Truitt lends a helping hand during the Whiskers for Wishes gift distribution on Wednesday.

Chief Calloway said the growth of the program in terms of communitywide support is amazing.

“It is just like our bike rodeo; it becomes a success. You find out this works,” said Chief Calloway. “This is our winter outreach. We love this program. This year, we’ll have the bike rodeo. We’re looking forward to that, hopefully, … and then, we are going to have our very first police academy. We’ve got some things in the chute here. So, if anything, what COVID has allowed our agency to do is reset and also to reenergize, so we can come back stronger.”

Mayor Truitt called the program “heartwarming.”

“I know that many local people, including myself, have donated in all the years past, and we just appreciate and know that the money donated was well-spent,” she said. “And it was amazing in not only did the families get gifts, but many of them also got food for the dinner.”

Chief Calloway said he believes there are families “that truly depend on this type of outreach.”

The mayor said she appreciated the town’s support.

“I like getting the community involved and engaged,” she said. “We get ideas from them, what they’d like to see. It kind of works hand in hand. So we’re very much focused on the community and what Millsboro needs and what can make a difference.”