BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Sirens coming from the Bloomfield Police Department’s cars and Bloomfield Fire Department’s trucks have been heard blaring for over a week now, but for a more fun purpose than normal — birthday celebrations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down schools, nonessential businesses and normal life for most of the world, BPD Lt. Naomi Zepeda, Officer Yesenia Aponte and Officer Marvid Camacho have been driving around town celebrating residents who have April birthdays, hoping to alleviate the disappointment of canceled parties. In the week since they started, the BPD has received more than 75 requests.
“I think we have more fun with it than the kids do,” Zepeda, who runs the Community Services Bureau, joked in a phone interview on April 10.
The BPD isn’t the only police department in the area holding birthday parades. Others in the county had started to drive to residents’ homes and wish them a happy birthday when it became clear that social-distancing guidelines wouldn’t be lifted anytime soon. Public Safety Director Samuel DeMaio suggested the BPD do the same, and Zepeda, Aponte and Camacho, who is the school resource officer at Bloomfield Middle School, formed a temporary unit.
“It’s just a really great thing for them to do,” Mayor Michael Venezia said in a phone interview on April 10. “We’re trying to do as much as we can. This is a tough time for kids, not being in school or able to see their friends. It’s not the same thing as being at school, but we’re trying to alleviate what’s been put on the parents who are working from home and make some fun for kids.”
But they’re not all kids, according to Zepeda. The youngest person she, Aponte and Camacho have sung happy birthday to was 2 years old. The oldest was 84.
“We don’t have an age limit,” Zepeda said. “We want to include everyone.”
While still following social-distancing rules, the BPD officers give younger residents a gift bag with a coloring book, a police pen, a squishy police car and other swag. Older residents get a copy of the annual department photo.
“We’re always looking for ways to get the community involved,” Zepeda said. “It’s nice that they can still get something.”
To request a birthday parade, email Zepeda at email@example.com.
Photos Courtesy of Bloomfield Police Department