Fair Lawn Amassed Area's Largest Toys for Tots Collection
The Fair Lawn police, rescue squad and police dispatchers teamed up with the U.S. Marine Corps this holiday season to collect Toys for Tots.
Fair Lawn emergency service workers set quite the bar for toy collections this past holiday season.
In their first year participating in the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program, the Fair Lawn Policemen's Benevolent Association, in concert with the Fair Lawn Rescue Squad and Fair Lawn Police Dispatchers collected more toys than any of the other 42 collection stations throughout the area, PBA president Michael O'Brien said.
O'Brien said he had no idea they had collected 3,041 toys until recently when the PBA received a tally of the items they collected and a plaque from the Saddle River Detachment No. 1211 Marine Corps League recognizing them for their contributions.
"I was truly inspired by my brothers and sister as we worked as a team with the dispatchers and rescue personnel to get this mission accomplished," O'Brien said. "Watching any child light up with joy is special, but when it's a child in need, our dedicated members were committed to seeing this through."
The toys, collected primarily through resident donations and PBA contributions, went to support a wide range of groups and causes including local children's hospitals, homeless shelters, religious institutions and the children of deployed military service members. Trucks carrying toys also made stops in Toms River and hard-hit towns in Bergen County for distribution to Hurricane Sandy victims. Other toys went to Fair Lawn families in need via Liz Twiggs of the Fair Lawn Human Services Department.
O'Brien offered special thanks to the operator of a Connecticut daycare center who gave $600 of the proceeds from a kids bake sale to the PBA's cause in the form of a Toys"R"Us gift certificate.
The woman was in Fair Lawn to check on the well-being of her mother-in-law when she came in contact with Officer Anthony Lugo.
"They found, unfortunately, [her mother-in-law] was deceased," said Lugo, who was at the residence responding to the death call. "While waiting and contacting the [medical examiner's] office, I was just talking to her normal and just trying to take her mind off the situation."
In the course of their conversation, Lugo said the woman asked whether the department participated in Toys for Tots and, following a conversation with O'Brien, offered to make a sizable $600 donation.
When officers arrived at the Paramus Toys"R"Us to purchase an even $1000 worth of toys using the woman's gift card and another $400 the PBA had cobbled together, O'Brien said the store manager went out of his way to accommodate the officers.
"We went in there with $1000 and said 'This is what we have to spend,' and this guy turned it into eight carts, big carts worth of toys," O'Brien said. "We [drove] out of there with the black Expedition, literally the two of us were in the front and the toys were going up against the back of our heads, it was so packed we couldn’t get any more in there. That was awesome."
While Fair Lawn may have amassed the largest number of toys for tots in the area, O'Brien emphasized that it takes nothing away from other groups that also participated in the program, no matter how many items they donated.
Organizations hoping to keep pace with Fair Lawn in the future, however, may have their work cut out for them. O'Brien said he's hoping to get an earlier start with collections next year and double the amount of toys they distribute.
"Giving these toys to these kids and just spending some time with them, connecting with them," he said. "There’s nothing better than that.”