“Today, I am Santa,” said Roselle Park resident Gina Santangelo as she – along with her daughter Caitlin Gibson – presented a tray of food to each of Roselle Park Fire Department’s (RPFD) fire houses this past Sunday, December 29th, to thank all the volunteer firefighters for what they did for the community by having Santa Claus visit houses to deliver presents to children throughout the borough, including her house.
“I had 10 children here – nieces and nephews of all ages,” recalled Gina of her family’s visit from Santa two Sundays ago, “The youngest was my son Paul Anthony, who is nine-months-old and my eldest daughter Caitlin, a Sherman school alumnus, is now 16-years-old, but the ages of the children didn’t matter because they were all so excited to see Santa pull up on the fire truck.”
Gina recounted how Santa was greeted by all of the children who were jumping up and down. They were even more shocked when Saint Nick started rattling off their names one by one as he handed them the toys. Santa also looked at dad and whispered what the score of the Giants game was at the time.
“What made it great was that the children didn’t know he was coming and saw the fire truck on the street behind us making more stops before our house,” said Gina, “The kids thought there was a fire and were very concerned and kept looking out the window saying that they hoped the people were all okay. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see not only Santa but the rest of the volunteer fire fighters helping him make all of these children so happy.”
That event made Gina realize everything the RPFD does throughout the year and felt compelled to thank them by giving back to them with a personal thank you. She took it upon herself to send a message out via social media asking of anyone who wanted to help her raise money to put together a special night where dinner could be purchased for each of the three firehouses.
Not knowing how it would turn out, she was touched by the overwhelming amount of people who messaged her wanting to donate. She stated, “Some dropped it in my mailbox and I drove and picked some up. What shocked me is that people who didn’t even have Santa pop in also wanted to donate and some people gave more than I even asked for.”
After all was said and done, Gina ended up collecting $350.00 from approximately 35 families as well as individuals and was able to give each firehouse two (2) sandwich platters, a cookie platter, a tray of garden salad, macaroni and potato salad, bottles of soda, and paper products. Sandwiches provided by Tommy’s Joint – located at 314 West Webster Avenue – and the salads provided by Valentino’s – located at 201 East Westfield Avenue.
Even when the firefighters were being presented with something, their volunteer spirit kicked in and they came out to ask Gina and her daughter if they needed help. Gina said, “They could not believe the amount of food we dropped of to them. They were very thankful and excited.”
Included in the food platters, Gina delivered a simple letter that read:
As a way to say thank you for bringing Santa Claus to our homes and to our children, our community wanted do something special for our wonderful volunteers. You put big smiles on the faces of our children this holiday season and while we can’t repay you completely, please accept this small token of our appreciation. Thank you for volunteering your time and for being there all year long. Please enjoy dinner prepared by local business owners, Tommy’s Joint and Valentino’s. Thanks again for all you do! You are appreciated.
A list of those who donated was included in the letter.
In light of yesterday morning’s fire that has left a family in need (link), when firefighters answered the call to a house fire when most were either resting or partying in the new year, Gina’s and the community’s gesture of appreciation could not be more timely.
“This was from our town to them and we wanted them to all enjoy a night of relaxation and goodies,” Gina said about what she did to give back to the RPFD, “I can honestly say it was one of the most exciting and memorable thing I’ve done and would do it again and again.”