Christmas Angels spread holiday cheer

Photos courtesy Allan Ford/ Charlie Schimpf and Allan Ford go over the list during wrapping (below) and a group photo from this year’s event (above).


By Anthony J. Machcinski

With all of the economic hardships that area families face on a daily basis, many have been forced to cut back on Christmas celebrations. In order to make sure that the children of these families have something to look forward to this season, several members of the Harrison Police Department have put together the Christmas Angels project.
Started in 1996, the Christmas Angels project has helped many families and their children celebrate Christmas.
“In 1996, we got gifts and put then in the back of a truck and we went to the [Harrison Gardens] and we had Santa show up,” explained Sgt. Dave Strumolo, who has been with the Christmas Angels project since its inception. “It got bigger and then we started having it at the community center.”
“It was actually an old tradition that the police department did for a while,” explains Det. Charlie Schimpf,  the School Resource Officer for the Town of Harrison and a member of Christmas Angels.
This year, the project helped 38 families and over 107 children. It was funded by donations from several sources including the PBA, officers and local businesses. The toys are stored in a donated warehouse space in Harrison, organized into age groups, then distributed to the families.
This year imparted a different feeling for many of the attending families.
“This year, it’s a little more personalized,” explained Allan Ford, who is running the event this year along with Schimpf and Strumolo. “This is also the first year we decided to do breakfast where we have waffles, eggs, sausage, and donated breads from Dunkin Doughnuts and Pechter’s.”
While Christmas Angels provides a gift for the families they serve, the real gift is the reaction they receive back from those same families.
“It makes you feel good,” Ford said, “We get a lot of hugs and see the smiles on their face. It’s unbelievable. Even the kids who don’t believe, seeing their faces watching their younger brother or sister, we’ve even had parents cry. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
For Schimpf and Strumolo, it’s about giving something back.
“I remember for me, Christmas was very church oriented,” explained Schimpf. “My gifts I did receive were from people in the church. The nuns would come over with bags of stuff that was donated. That feeling of being appreciated of someone else helping – that was it.”
“What we feel is that you do something for people who need something more than you,” Strumolo added.
Giving something back was given a whole new meaning last year.
After Christmas with his family, Ford received a call from an officer who was responding to a domestic violence call. Inside the home, there was no Christmas tree and no gifts on Christmas. Ford went home, got dressed up as Santa, and headed to the scene.
“We had some left over gifts and we brought them to the kids,” Ford explained happily.
Ford, Schimpf and Strumolo mostly organized the huge undertaking. Admittedly, the three men have received help in the form of donations. They send their heartfelt thanks to the following members of the community for their contributions:
Applebee’s, The Brown Family, Dan and Carol Manley, the Corblies Family, Delaware North, Dunkin Donuts, Extra Space Storage Harrison, Fleco-Craft, the Ford Family, Harrison Grammar School Counselors, Harrison PBA Local 22, Harrison High School Student Wrappers, Jenn Esteves, LCCC Staff, Lincoln Theatre, the McChesney Family, Michael’s Clifton Store, Pechter’s Bakery, Retired Harrison Police Chief John Trucillo, the Schimpf Family, Shop Rite, Stan Przybylski, the Strumolo family, the Titterington Family, Travis Cowley, The Observer, The Kearny Journal, and WalMart.

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