More than 300 Bloomfield children from 125 families came to the Bloomfield Municipal Courtroom on Thursday, December 20th to participate in one of the Police Department’s long-standing traditions, a holiday toy drive. Each of the children received three to five brand new toys and gifts, and were invited to take a picture with Santa Claus!

The toys given away in the municipal courthouse were donated by local businesses, schools and residents, and purchased with funds contributed by local businesses and charitable organizations. Toy bins were set up in recent weeks outside of local businesses, and the Police headquarters. Sponsors included Hot Bagels Abroad, ECRB Towing, Leroy Jones, the Bloomfield Cruisers, the United Way of Bloomfield, the Fischman/Brundage Families, Lummus Technology, LLC., ShopRite, Clark Ave. Crew, Bloomfield High School Key Club, and Brookdale Elementary School, Oak View Elementary School, Franklin Elementary School, and the Bloomfield Mayor and Township Council.

The Bloomfield Youth Aid Foundation, a non-profit foundation started by the Bloomfield Police Youth Aid Division’s Lieutenant George Ricci, donated several hundred dollars with which to purchase toys as well. Members of the BHS Key Club organized efforts to pick up toys promised by neighboring families and packing the toys before bringing them to the municipal courtroom.

“This Bloomfield tradition spans over 20 years, and it is always great to see the enthusiasm that the children and their parents have, as well as our dedicated police officers,” said Mayor Michael Venezia. “Each family was able to take new toys for the holidays. I am always glad to participate in this wonderful ceremony and am extremely grateful to our officers, specifically Lieutenant George Ricci, Detective James Romano, Detective Paul Charles, Detective Hector Nunez and Detective Shonah Maldonado of the the Bloomfield Police Youth Aid Division and Community Policing Unit.”

Santa was played by Bloomfield resident Steve Tice, who has begun a tradition of dressing as Santa Claus and providing hot chocolate and cookies to neighborhood children at his Bolten Place home. In recent years, he and his wife and children have led neighborhood present collection drives.

“Our officers are here to serve the community, and by truly engaging with the community during the holidays as well as throughout the year, we are able to build relationships that show young people and their families that they can always come to us for help,” said Director of Public Safety Samuel DeMaio. “Community policing works best when the Police are around for good things as well as when residents call in need. I would like to commend Lieutenant Ricci for planning and organizing this event, Lieutenant Naomi Zepeda, and all of our officers for continuing this great Bloomfield Police tradition, and thank all of the local businesses and individuals who donated gifts to make this possible.”

The Youth Aid Division monitors safety at Bloomfield schools and throughout the community. Bloomfield Police Officers referred to as School Resource Officers are assigned to Bloomfield High School and Bloomfield Middle School throughout the school years, and work hand in hand with school administrators as a resource to aid students whenever the need arises. The Youth Aid Division has organized and administered the Holiday Toy Drive annually for over 20 years.