They're all special, beautiful people," Meltzer said. "I just love them. I love their smiles. I love the way their faces light up when they see me. They say, 'Netta, I love you.' That makes my day. There's nothing like it."
Last Thursday, Meltzer hosted her annual Christmas party for more than 400 "special" people at the North Bergen Nutritional Center. All of the participants received a gift of some sort. Santa Claus was there. They had pizza and soda. They danced to the music from the disc jockey. It was a special day for the special people.
Twenty years ago, Meltzer would have never dreamed she would be dedicating her life totally to the care and love of children with disabilities.
"Back then, I just lost my parents," Meltzer said. "I was upset and needed something in my life. I knew I wanted to go back to work. I got a job as a teacher's aide in the Board of Education. But I knew I needed something that would make me move ahead with my life."
Meltzer worked at a summer camp for children with disabilities and became instantly hooked.
"There were seven children at that first camp I worked at," Meltzer said. "I instantly drew close to them. I knew that it was something I had to do."
At that time, she approached North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and asked if she could start a program for the kids with special needs. Sacco was more than happy to oblige.
"Mayor Sacco saw the need to have a program," Meltzer said. "I told him that I wanted to give it a try and see what happens. He gave me the support to do it. He gave me everything I needed. I never had to worry. It was always there."
Meltzer's group continued to grow and grow. She has 30 children who attend weekly sessions. Another 70 kids attend the summer camp. The Christmas party is the largest event of the year.
"I think it grew so much because everyone knew me and everyone believed in me," Meltzer said. "I think it was the only program of its kind. Without this program, our kids would be sheltered and have nothing to do."
Every week, Meltzer takes approximately 30 of her special kids to go bowling. They also go to movies, sometimes go swimming. She's constantly on the go.
"People ask me how I do it," Meltzer said. "I say it's done with love."
Meltzer has help. She said that she gets a lot of help from Sheila Elgowsky and her husband, Jeff.
"There's Pat and Donna, but I don't remember their last names," Meltzer said.
For the Christmas party, Meltzer received donations from the Toys For Tots program, from the Student Council at Lincoln School, from Parks and Recreation Commissioner Allen Pascual and from Larry Gold of Gold Coast Cleaners.
"Everyone gets a gift," Meltzer said. "It has to be that way. I asked some of them what they wanted and they wrote a letter to Santa."
Meltzer has one fundraising event, called Netta's Auction, that she organizes in May to defray some of the costs for the program all year.
Meltzer said two of her kids wanted a Nintendo Game Boy. So she purchased the games out of her own pocket.
"If it makes them smile, then that's my reward," Meltzer said. "I laugh with them and talk to them like they're normal people. And they understand me."
Pascual is amazed by Meltzer's undying devotion to the special kids.
"She's a special person, a truly special person," Pascual said. "She has the ability to make these kids happy. Her kids should be looked after. They're special kids. It's not an easy thing to do, to do what she does every day. That's why she's definitely a special person."