‘Little Raiders’ campaign returns to h...

‘Little Raiders’ campaign returns to help kids in MTSU community with help from ‘Secret Santas’

The Middle Tennessee State University Police Department and campus partners are getting in the holiday spirit by continuing the annual “Little Raiders” gift-giving campaign, which helps provide cheer to underprivileged children in the MTSU community and children of domestic violence.  

This ornament is among those hanging on three trees across the MTSU campus supporting the annual “Little Raiders” gift-giving campaign. Secret Santas can pick an ornament to “adopt” a local child and help fulfill their Christmas wish list by donating gifts before Monday, Dec. 5. (MTSU file photo by DeAnn Hays)

From now until the first week of December, Christmas trees adorned with paper ornaments and special tags with children’s needs and wish lists will be on display on campus for “Secret Santas” to select at the following sites:

University Police Department, 1412 E. Main St. The lobby is open 24 hours a day. (Update: Three ornaments remain to be picked up at of Nov. 16.)

Student Health Services, located inside MTSU’s Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center at 1848 Blue Raider Drive. Health Services’ hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday. (All ornaments have been claimed.)

• The June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students located in the Student Union Building 330, 1768 MTSU Blvd. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. (All ornaments have been claimed.)

Note: Student Health Services and the June Anderson Center will be closed Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 24-26, for the Thanksgiving holidays with the rest of the university.

All gifts and donations can be dropped off at MTSU’s Police Department 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Gifts should be new. They can be wrapped or unwrapped, and they must be dropped off by Monday, Dec. 5.

“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,” said Sgt. Vergena Forbes, the project’s organizer.

Started by now-retired Sgt. Steve Scott, the Little Raiders campaign was brought back to life by Forbes more than a decade ago.

Vergena Forbes
Sgt. Vergena Forbes of the MTSU Police Department stands outside the Student Union in this Februrary 2021 file photo. She’s served as organizer for the annual “Little Raiders” gift program for children for more than a decade. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

“Some of our students are single parents in need who have very little money to spare when it comes to 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.”

A collaborative effort, the Little Raiders campaign is made possible by the police department and their partners at Student Health Services, the June Anderson Center, MTSU Campus Recreation, MTSU’s Nutrition and Dietetic Association student organization and Barnabas Vision, a Murfreesboro-based nonprofit organization that helps with a variety of needs and services across the entire community.

The Little Raiders campaign organizers say they expect 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.

MTSU Police Department's new logo

Any gifts remaining from the campaign are donated to the community to help others, Forbes said.

“Whatever is not taken or used, I donate to the local Salvation Army Angel Tree program, since they run their Christmas program longer,” the veteran officer explained.

Forbes said the Little Raiders campaign is important to her for many reasons, but it chiefly 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 enjoy helping people, which is one of the reasons I got into law enforcement – to help others. I look forward to the Little Raiders campaign every year and knowing I was able to help this child and family celebrate.”

MTSU’s police department is made up of 38 police officers, 11 dispatchers and office staff members and 12 part-time student workers. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

For more information on the Little Raiders campaign, please contact Forbes at 615-898-2424.

— DeAnn Hays (

An MTSU “Little Raider” accepts his gifts from Santa at a Christmas celebration for the annual gift-giving campaign, organized by the University Police Department, in this file photo. “Secret Santas” can choose a tag with a child’s wish list from one of three trees on campus now and return the gifts to the police department’s offices by Monday, Dec. 5. (MTSU file photo by Jimmy Hart)
An excited “Little Raider” talks about her new friend Minnie Mouse while volunteers and supporters look on during the annual Little Raiders Christmas Party, organized by the University Police Department, in this file photo. The event benefits area families needing a helping hand at Christmas, including families from the local domestic violence program. (MTSU file photo by Jimmy Hart)
A group of “Little Raiders” pose for a photo during the annual Little Raiders Christmas party, organized by the University Police Department, in this file image. “Secret Santas” can choose a tag with a child’s wish list from one of three trees on campus now and return the gifts to the police department’s offices by Monday, Dec. 5. (MTSU file photo by Jimmy Hart)