NORTH BRUNSWICK – Jolly Ol’ St. Nick traded his eight tiny reindeer for North Brunswick Township Police Department cruisers and utility vehicles as he traversed the township spreading pre-Christmas holiday cheer.
“Words cannot describe the feeling you get when you see the look on people’s faces as Santa comes by. Kids cheer and adults pull out their cell phones for videos and pictures. It is one of those rare moments when everyone feels like they are included. No one is excluded, regardless of race, religion or economic status,” Patrolman Fedor Salvador-Romero, one of the event’s original organizers, said in a prepared statement.
What began five years ago as an effort to bring joy to those less fortunate has grown from eight to 80 families designated to receive gifts.
Gifts were originally the result of township police department employee donations. Now, other township employees, local businesses and community-based organizations donate hundreds of presents for those in need of holiday assistance, according to the statement. Officers come into the headquarters on Hermann Road before their shifts, often joined by their family members to help wrap and distribute gifts.
“We received a donation of 250 stuffed animals at one time. We were able to give every child who came out to greet us something,” Patrolman Cal Hibbits and Lt. Ryan Uzunis, two more of the original event organizers, said in the statement regarding the gift distribution on Dec. 19 and 20.
The department receives referrals for gifts from several sources. Churches, social service organizations and individuals aware of the department’s program reach out on behalf of others and themselves. Other times the referrals come from far more challenging circumstances.
Salvador-Romero said, “Officers who have responded to a domestic violence call or a report of a home invasion will take a mental note of what they encounter. Often the family, especially the children, are too shaken to interact with us in a positive way. Santa’s visit is an opportunity for those traumatized earlier to feel better about their interactions with the department and the days ahead. It is our small way of bringing light to what may have otherwise been a dark situation.”
- This article was submitted by Burton Trent Public Affairs on behalf of the North Brunswick Police Department.