HOW YOU CAN HELP: Collecting for the annual PBA Toy Drive in Bergen County, police from more than two dozen Bergen County towns were driven by how Hurricane Sandy devastated the lives of so many people. They now have Friday’s massacre in Connecticut in mind, as well.
One of them, Closter Police Sgt. Nicoletti, has an aunt who teaches fifth grade in Newtown. A relative also babysat one of the innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Now, Nicoletti and other members of the team hope they can collect enough toys to ship out Wednesday to cancer-stricken youngsters at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack and to kids in Moonachie, Little Ferry and the Jersey Shore, while having enough left to fill a truck headed for Newtown this Friday.
“We wanted to do something, but we also wanted to be sensitive to their situation and not be an interference,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning. “But we talked to a police chief up there, and he said they set up a drop-off point. We’ll be able to get in and out without bothering anyone.”
The “SRT” already has four trucks ready to roll from the Closter firehouse on Wednesday with toys collected by 30 or so police agencies in and around Bergen County.
“Every year, it’s like the loaves and the fish, the way the toys have been multiplying,” Nicoletti said. “We’re hoping for even more this year.”
His department’s PBA launched the program more than 20 years ago. It originally targeted impoverished areas, but the poor economy — and, this year, both Sandy and the horror of Newtown — has created a greater need throughout and beyond Bergen.
“Remember: Those children who lost their lives have siblings. The last thing many of their parents are thinking about is finding toys,” Nicoletti told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “We’re hoping this helps.”
Law enforcement agencies throughout Bergen, in Orangetown — and this, year, in Passaic County, as well — have been collecting toys and electronics (very popular) for youngsters, as well as non-perishable goods for victims of Sandy flooding in Moonachie and Little Ferry.
It all leads up to this Wednesday at the Closter firehouse, where many of those who worked on the drive will be treated to a breakfast served up by chef-to-the-stars Bob Mauer of Chef Bob’s in Closter — including an omelette station and much more — from 8 to 10 a.m.
Then the bay doors will open and officers from dozens of departments will begin unloading vehicles packed with toys, non-perishable food and other goodies.
They’ll have help from soldiers from the Teaneck Armory, who not only bring gifts but provide a military truck to transport them.
Vendors including Johnny Meatballs and various cupcake vendors and catering trucks — even a deejay — will provide nourishment and support as the toys are collected, sorted and then packed up for the trips to Hackensack, Moonachie, Little Ferry and the Shore.
Sometime around 1:30-2 p.m., they’ll begin rolling out.
“So many companies are donating their time and resources to help,” Nicoletti said. “These food vendors are strained from Sandy, from their own circumstances. Yet they’re doing it all for free.”
Besides several law enforcement agencies that have joined in this year, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office will help direct traffic, along with Hackensack police.
It’s that kind of giving that has helped the annual PBA Toy Drive grow — and which makes it possible to serve so many youngsters in different places, Nicoletti said.
“A chain is as strong as each link. If it were just me, I’d be standing by myself with one toy,” the 24-year Closter veteran said. “So many are doing so much.”
Nicoletti then paused a moment while considering the SRT’s unprecedented mission this season.
“I’m hoping we have more than enough [toys],” he said.
TO DONATE: CONTACT YOUR LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT OR SCHOOL DISTRICT, OR CLICK THE “NEWS TIP” BOX, ABOVE RIGHT.