Mera got in touch with the United States Marine Corps' annual "Toys for Tots" campaign and the rest was easy, thanks to the contributions of Weehawken residents, the police department and the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad.
Well, it's the holiday season once again and after the success of a year ago, Mera and his officers are back at work, collecting toys for the needy.
"Last year, we collected about 200 toys," Mera said. "We got a late start, but the response was very good. People got behind us. Once they knew we were doing it, they were filling boxes faster than we could get new boxes there. It really went well last year, so we decided to do it again."
The Marines' started the "Toys for Tots" mission back in 1947, but this is the first time that there is an organized effort by the Weehawken police department to join in the cause.
"We wanted to be able to help the community, especially at this time of year," said Mera, who organized the Weehawken Police's efforts that began last week, with drop-off locations at both police headquarters inside Town Hall and the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad on Highwood Avenue. "There are a lot of kids out there who are less fortunate and don't have a chance to celebrate the holidays. Everyone is in support of it."
Mera contacted the North Jersey chapter for the "Toys for Tots" campaign in Wayne and they supplied all the necessary promotional posters that he has distributed and posted throughout the township.
Building self esteem
According to the "Toys for Tots" campaign literature, almost 20 percent of all American children live in poverty. The mission of the campaign is to provide a tangible sign of hope to these economically disadvantaged children during the Christmas holidays.
The "Toys for Tots" mission asks for only brand new, unwrapped toys, simply because second-hand toys make the recipients feel like second-class citizens.
"The objective of the shiny new toy includes building and restoring self esteem by eliminating the second class citizen syndrome that is associated with second hand toys," the campaign flier states.
The Weehawken Police PBA 15's Toy Drive will continue through December 20 at the two locations.
"We started the drive this year a little earlier, like Nov. 1," Mera said. "At the stores and businesses where we've put up posters, they've said that they would also hold toys for us as well. The members of the department have been contributing as well. I think everyone knows that we're doing it for a good cause."
Although "Toys for Tots" encourages brand new toy donations as opposed to monetary contributions, they will accept money through their website, which is www.toysfortots.org.
"Of course, every little bit helps," Mera said. "Everyone has their own needs and families, but this is something we all share. It's a common cause. We all want to see children happy at Christmas."
Mera said that he has been receiving donations from some of the local businesses in town, like UBS Financial Services, Swatch, which is located in Lincoln Harbor, Coldwell Banker real estate, Houlihan's and the Weehawken school district.
"I just thought it was something the PBA could do to interact with the community," Mera said. "It's really going well, better than last year. Whatever we get helps the 'Toys for Tots' campaign."
Police Officer Justin Rollings was also glad to lend a hand.
"We're very excited about it," Rollings said. "We like to give back to the community. It's just another of the charities that we donate to. We're letting the community know that we're here for them, that we all work together."
Rollings is no stranger to giving of his time, also working with the Torch Run to help the Special Olympics and the fundraising walk to help the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Rollings is also the coach of the PBA team in the Cal Ripken baseball league.
"It's a good feeling," said Rollings, who is a lifelong Weehawken resident like Mera. "We want to help."
"I think we were glad to get it started last year," Mera said. "Everyone was asking if we were doing it again. A lot of the businesses and the schools actually approached us, knowing we would do it again. We're hoping for the same kind of response."
Deputy Police Chief Tom McGorty applauded Mera's efforts.
"There was no hesitations from us," McGorty said. "When we spoke with Brian and heard how sincere he was in doing it, we were all for it. It's a great community thing that they're doing and it reflects well on our guys. I'm proud that they took the initiative to get it going. It shows that they are community oriented."
The Weehawken Police PBA Local 15's Toy Drive will continue through Dec. 20. Donations are asked for boys and girls, (infant to 15 years old). The toys should be new and unwrapped. The two drop off locations are the Weehawken Police Department Headquarters, located in Town Hall at 400 Park Avenue, phone (201) 863-7800 and at the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad, 201 Highwood Avenue, (201) 863-6611.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org