Santa brings gifts to borough school

Photos by Ron Leir Kids unwrap holiday gifts donated by employees from Robert Half Intl.

Photos by Ron Leir
Kids unwrap holiday gifts donated by employees from Robert Half Intl.


East Newark Public School was “adopted” Dec. 10 by a global firm whose management has made an annual tradition of playing Santa for nearly a decade.

Thirty employees of Robert Half International, an executive staffing search company with regional offices in Rutherford, Paramus, Saddle Brook, Jersey City and Parsippany, volunteered their time to bring some holiday cheer by giving out toys and munchies to all of the borough school children.

School Superintendent/ Principal Patrick Martin said the event came about after he had previously brought his son-in-law, Jeff Menzel, a regional vice president of Robert Half, to see the borough school, which serves pre-k to grade 8.

“He fell in love with our school and the kids and he wanted to do something special for them,” Martin said.

Menzel, who works out of the company’s Parsippany office, explained that Robert Half has sponsored toy drives for Newark school kids since 2006, typically for one school each year.

This time around, it was decided that East Newark would be the beneficiary of the company’s largesse, he said.

Menzel said the employees “took it on themselves to donate their own time and money” toward the effort.

Among the gifts bestowed were coloring books, crayons, Play-Doh creations and little bouncy balls for the little kids; and, for older students, there were bookbags, Rubik’s Cubes and crossword puzzles, kickballs, scarves, bracelets, mittens, nail polish, gloves and hats and even air freshener sprays.

Together with their colleagues, Rachel Brotman and Rainier Castrillo, staffing managers with the company’s accounting and finance unit, made like Santa’s elves in carrying their bags of goodies from the staging area in the school’s tiny cafeteria up the stairs to the classrooms.

“I enjoy it,” said Brotman. “It’s a good time in the holiday season to visit the kids. It’s great – they’re so sweet.”

For Castrillo, last week’s endeavor was an extension of his personal habit of “reaching out to kids.” During the year, he works with the Boys & Girls Club. But the day in East Newark was equally special. “Seeing the kids’ smile makes us all feel good. I wish it was all year round.”

And, judging from the happy expressions on children’s faces, the feeling was probably mutual.

– Ron Leir 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.