BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Police Department held its annual holiday gift-giving event for local children and their families on Monday evening, Dec. 21. But before the sacks of present were distributed — and there were literally sacks — Lt. George Ricci, Youth Aid Division commander, had some advice for his corp of volunteers. These helpers were BPD and court personnel, family members, and members of the Bloomfield High School Key Club. They were assembled in the municipal courtroom where the event was to take place. The judge’s table was decked with a cheerful cloth.
“It’s going to get packed in here,” Ricci said. “It’s going to get hot. Most important, I want everyone friendly with everyone. I want the people coming to have a pleasant experience.”
Ricci said 350 children would be receiving presents. This total represented 100 more than ever before. Ricci said the children came from 160 families. He gave an order that he did not want to see any garbage can that needed emptying.
“Now come and get your elf hats,” he said.
In an interview while his elves got cracking, Ricci said the annual event has been on the BPD schedule for more than 20 years. He pointed out that the department gets a lot of help from Bloomfield businesses that contribute presents from their own toy drives, or they make donations to supply cookies, candy, sandwiches, coffee and water.
Santa was on hand, ably portrayed by Detective James Romano, of the Youth Aid Division.
“He’s one of my key detectives,” Ricci said. “He’s a jolly sort.”
Mrs. Claus was played by Sgt. Naomi Zepeda, of the Community Policing Unit. Zepeda looked stylish in a red shift which she had ordered online for the occasion. It is Zepeda’s second year to be cast as Mrs. Claus. The Christmas elf was played by Detective Jen Horn, of the Detective Bureau.
The event had 13 sponsors. The nonprofits were the BPD and their families, the BHS Key Club, Oakview Elementary School and United Way. A line of children and their parents stretched down the stairs.