This Thanksgiving some of the senior residents of Howell will get a helping hand from the local PBA chapter as another example of the town working together to help those in need.
On Wednesday afternoon the officers from the will go around town delivering Thanksgiving meals to residents in what Det. Chris Nagy said has become a welcome tradition for his union. Nagy said it is a collaborative effort between the PBA, the and local business owners Gene Young and Hal Ornstein.
Young and Ornstein, he said help to collect the food and provide the volunteers that will meet at the Southard Fire House on Wednesday morning to put the meals together for the seniors. Once everything is put together it is up to the officers to deliver the meals.
The delivery of the meals is no small process as Nagy said the PBA typically delivers anywhere between 80 and 140 baskets on an annual basis. Carol Zur, the township's Director of Senior Services said the program started with around 50 baskets delivered the first few years and it has grown since then. This year Zur said the officers will deliver close to 130 meals to seniors all over the town.
Zur said the idea for the deliveries came as a result of residents who received their meals five days a week as part of the township's Meals on Wheels program but had nobody to spend the holidays with. They also make similar deliveries on Easter and Passover, but Zur said whenever they deliveries are made they are very much appreciated.
She said during the year the senior center and the police department work together on a regular basis, but this is special for everyone involved. "It's such a community relations kind of thing," she said. "Particularly from the senior population that [officer involvement] demands a certain amount of respect. Just the fact that the officers take time to do it, they're really pretty blown away by it."
One of the best parts of doing the deliveries, Nagy said is that it gives the seniors a chance to interact with the officers. Unlike other times when the department might be called for a first aid emergency or a hospital transport, this allows for a more relaxed environment. "They get to see us in a different light," he said. "When they answer the door they're hugging and kissing you and they're really thankful you're bringing this food."
Wednesday's delivery is a holiday tradition more than a decade old, but Nagy said even the officers who did it at the very beginning keep coming back every year. "Guys come in on their days off and do it. They volunteer to do this." Even on their days off the officers still get into full uniform and make the deliveries in their patrol cars to make the day even more special for the seniors.
The food delivery is not the only holiday activity the PBA takes part in. Next Friday the union will once again host a Breakfast and Bowling Party for special needs students from around the township. In addition to the officers, Santa and Mrs. Clause will be coming to the for a fun morning for everybody.
Much like the delivery is a chance to spend time with seniors, Nagy said the bowling party gives the officers a chance to spend time with some of the youngest residents of the town. This year he estimates close to 120 students and 60 teachers will take part in the festivities.
Along with the free bowling, the students also get a special present from Santa. Those gifts were collected by the officers which Nagy said is a special experience for them especially when they see them distributed to the children.
Whether they are delivering food or bowling, Nagy said the officers enjoy this time of the year and all the activities they get to do. "It gets everybody in the holiday spirit," he said. "We're police officers, but with the bowling party we put a cop in every lane and all the officers in all the lanes are bowling with the kids. They see us in a different light and that's good for the kids."
Having been with the department for 12 years, and being involved with the PBA at the state level, Nagy said what his department does sets them apart from other chapters. "I know from going to the state PBA meetings that we have one of the most active PBA's in the state of New Jersey," he said.
Holiday activities in the town will culminate on Dec. 7 with the annual Christmas Tree and menorah lighting ceremony at Town Hall on Preventorium Rd. Howell Patch will have full coverage of all three events.