For the last two months of 2012, members of the Port Chester Auxiliary Police Association stood outside of stores collecting buckets full of money.
On Friday, they showed off what they did with the money when they delivered more than 300 gifts to the Don Bosco Community Center for members of the Don Bosco Boys & Girls Club.
The gift giving was part of the club’s Three Kings Day celebration, according to Father Richard Alejunas, executive director of the center. He added that they have an event yearly the last Saturday before Christmas that serves about 1,000 local children. The gifts given out on Friday went to about 150 kids ages 7-12 that are members of the boys and girls club, which Alejunas said is an after-school and weekend program for about 100 kids daily that also serves dinner each night.
While all the kids received multiple items, the most popular item for the girls, or at least the one that drew the most audible shrieks of excitement, were pillows featuring the face of different members of One Direction. Many boys huddled around the compared toy cars they received.
John Touri, assistant director of the auxiliary department, said they collected about $2,900-plus to be divided between gifts for kids at Don Bosco and all-inclusive movie passes for teenagers at the Carver Center, which they handed out last month.
This was the second year the auxiliary police collected money to purchase toys for kids. It was started last year by Melissa Salmon, president of the unit, and expanded this year to include Don Bosco after just raising money for the Carver Center.
Touri said they collected a bit less money this year than last, which he thinks is because of a variety of reasons. Superstorm Sandy delayed the collection process a bit, and then he thinks a lot of people who want to donate to help others were also donating to storm recovery and the people of Newtown, CT, after the elementary school shooting there.
“Still, no matter what’s going on in the world, not matter how bad it is, when it comes to kids, people are going to open their wallets and help out,” Touri said. “It’s not their fault what’s going on, and people just want to help.”
Touri, Salmon and George Colaluca, director of the unit, were on hand Friday night to hand out the gifts. They were joined by Rosalie Chilelli, of Wells Fargo, who also assisted with the drive.
“They would come in the buckets filled to the top with singles and change,” she said. “We’d exchange them for larger bills so it’d be easier for them when they went shopping.”
The three auxiliary police officers all said getting to hand out the gifts was a heartwarming moment for them, and Salmon said that as long as others in the unit are willing to help, she plans on the toy drive remaining a yearly tradition.
“My son goes to school with a lot of the kids,” she said. “So I know them a bit and know what they want. I can relate to them. It’s just awesome to get to help out and see them all happy and excited.”