Kids from Sunset Park, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sheepshead Bay and others from Harlem to the Bronx who sent their wish lists to Santa at Manhattan’s main post office on 34th Street this year will have their dreams come true, thanks to Cedric D. Raymond, Captain and Executive Officer at the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn.
But for children at P.S. 123 in Harlem, Metro Children’s Services in Bed-Stuy and the HEACC special needs school in the Bronx who will be showered with presents delivered by 72 Precinct cops on Monday, plus those receiving individual toy deliveries scheduled for the entire borough of Brooklyn on Christmas day, it will be proof that Santa Claus has come to town -- with the police only “helping out.”
While on vacation, Captain Raymond stopped by the post office which runs Operation Santa Claus and selected 120 letters from schoolchildren across the city to bring back to his precinct.
“I dropped a couple tears reading them,” he admits. “I figured answering these letters would be a way to give back to the New York City community that supports us significantly on a daily basis.”
He says he got the idea from Brooklyn Court Section Sergeant Beneta Primus who ran a toy drive there last Christmas.The entire precinct apparently agreed. Civilians, police officers and supervisors went shopping for Nintendos, Game Boys, train sets, art supplies, remote control cars, Barbie and Brat dolls and beautiful holiday clothing for the pint sized letter writers, many of them confiding detailed descriptions of economic devastation ripping their homes apart -- parents who lost their jobs, families suddenly homeless and moving into shelters, young mothers crying all night, fathers unable to provide basic necessities for their families and no sign of Santa Claus coming down a chimney this year.
Captain Raymond’s “72nd Precinct Dear Santa Initiative” was encouraged by Deputy Inspector Jesus R. Pintos, the precinct’s commanding officer who declined credit for the overwhelming response by his officers and civilian employees at the stationhouse located at 830 4th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park., insisting “This is Captain Raymond’s baby.”
“This particular year is of special importance,” said Deputy Inspector Pintos, “because of the economic situation. People have lost their jobs and have to make more with less. This particular season, these toys are more meaningful because parents are having a tough time providing.”
A letter written to Santa from a little girl at P.S. 123 in Harlem -- where many of the children are from homeless shelters -- said it all. While her classmates begged Santa for school supplies, winter coats and socks, all she wanted for Christmas was “a bottle of body wash.”
Describing this season’s letters to Santa Claus as “heart wrenching,” members of the 72nd Precinct went into action combing city toy stores for the best toys, wrapping them up like professionals with the letters of request attached and piling them up under a tree back at the station-house where they modestly assembled to pose for a picture commemorating a job well done -- saving Christmas for the tiniest citizens of their city.