The Weehawken Police Benevolent Association (PBA) is well known for its charity involvement throughout the year. Members pulled a 120,000-pound Boeing 737 jet 12 feet in October, and in February they’ll jump in the freezing water off the Jersey Shore, all the while raising money for the New Jersey Special Olympics. But the holiday season is their most-involved period all year, and given the damage Hurricane Sandy did to Weehawken, they felt that this year they should take their usual good deeds a step further.
In addition to their usual annual town-wide toy drive, which distributes toys to Toys for Tots, local homeless and battered women’s shelters, hospitals, and the Hudson County Division of Youth and Family Services, the PBA collected extra toys this year for some of their own – local children who lost nearly everything they owned in Hurricane Sandy. In addition, they hosted a holiday party Wednesday night for families from the township’s waterfront and downtown neighborhoods, including The Shades.
“I think this type of thing is great for the community. It’s lifting my spirits. I think it’s lifting everyone else’s spirits as well.” – Miles Gold
Officer Kayte Brancaccio, who coordinates the PBA’s annual collections, said that it was not hard to collect enough extra toys to make donations to the local kids.
“Our collections are usually pretty successful,” she said. “We just organized it a bit differently this year so we had enough toys to throw this party as well.”
The PBA collects toys donated mainly by Weehawken residents and businesses, and sponsors a pizza party for the homeroom at Weehawken High School that collects the most.
Held at the St. Lawrence Parish Center in the heart of The Shades, a neighborhood badly damaged by the storm, the party served to bring holiday cheer to the affected families, many of whom have not been living a normal life since the storm hit.
“I think this type of thing is great for the community,” said Miles Gold, 11. “It’s lifting my spirits. I think it’s lifting everyone else’s spirits as well.”
Miles’ little sister, Julianna Gold, 6, said that her family had almost four feet of water in their house, and that her refrigerator, couch, washer, and dryer were all ruined. But, she said, Christmas will cheer her up.
Misha Nair, 9, lost all her toys from when she was younger, as they were stored in her basement.
“Not just the toys, though,” she said, “but a lot of my memories, too.”
Asked whether the party had made her feel any better, she responded that she was excited for Christmas, and that she hoped Santa will bring her a new American Girl doll to replace the dolls she lost in Sandy.
Dee Vetter, a mother who lives in The Shades, said that like most Weehawken residents, she had lost more than some but less than others in the storm. She said the entire community could use a lift. The PBA, she said, came through.
“Emotionally, these kids have been through a lot,” she said. “They really needed this. It feels good for them.”
Vetter’s niece, Destiny Glackin, said she had lost all of her video game systems in the storm, and she hopes that she will get at least one new system back for Christmas.
Cherie McLaughlin, whose son Julian will turn 4 on New Year’s Eve, praised the Police Department for their work since Sandy.
“There have been police officers in The Shades every day since the storm, literally every day, and they help with everything,” she said. “We really couldn’t be more grateful, and this really topped it off.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org