By Kevin Canessa
The Kearny Fire Department’s Chief Fire Inspector Juan Barroso has fond memories of growing up as a kid in Harrison and having great experiences at Christmastime. The son of a single mom, things weren’t always easy financially. But one thing he knew, for sure, was that when Dec. 25 came along, his mom did everything in her power to make sure there were presents under the tree for her family.
“We always had a great Christmas,” Barroso said. “My mom always made sure Christmas was a great experience for us.”
So it should come as no surprise that two years ago, Barroso was behind the KFD’s decision to resurrect its annual Christmas Toy Drive. The KFD had had a drive in the past, but for whatever reason, it fell by the wayside for several years. But Barroso decided to see if he could re-start the drive. He got permission. And now, two years later, the drive has had overwhelming success.
For weeks, people have been dropping off toys at the KFD’s Midland Ave. headquarters. And because of the generosity of so many residents — and Barroso’s decision to get this drive going again — scores of Kearny children, who might not have had presents under the tree Christmas morning, will, instead, have a joy-filled holiday.
“The idea was that we wanted every kid in Kearny to have something for Christmas,” Barroso said. “We wanted to be sure that no kid in Kearny had to wake up Christmas morning to find nothing to open. I’ve been blessed with a great job — and I’ve done what many once told me I couldn’t do — I’ve done OK for myself in my life and my career. It’s made me want to give back to the community. There’s not much greater than being able to give back.”
While no one can be sure whether there are children who don’t get to experience the joys of Christmas, Barroso and the KFD have done everything within their power to do their part.
On Thursday, Dec. 14, Barroso and at least 20 members of the department, gathered outside HQ with bags upon bags of the toys they collected. They were stored, until then, in the great garage that also houses several fire trucks.
They took a few moment to take a few photos with the toys — and then loaded them into one fire vehicle and a private truck — and dropped them off at the Health Department’s Kearny Ave. office.
It is at the health department that the gifts are sorted and ultimately delivered to the children in town. The health department collects names and ages of children of parents and guardians who are struggling to bring Christmas to their children.
And based on what we saw at the health department’s office — the donations from the fire department and donations already solicited from other sources — there are going to be a lot of happy children come Monday, Dec. 25.
“No child should ever have to not experience a good Christmas,” Barroso said.
And thanks to Barroso’s incredible work coordinating this drive, and the generosity of the KFD and the community, very few, if any kids, should be without this Christmas Day.