The true meaning of Christmas brought tears to the eyes of some of Garfield's bravest Wednesday night when they brought Santa Claus, and more, to a family burned out of their home.
Erika Juarez, her 8-year-old daughter, Ivonne, and two sons, Joshua and Joseph, 6 and 10, were among 25 residents displaced when flames ripped through their three-story brick walkup on 4th Street in Passaic during last week's snowstorm.
"They were all lucky enough to get out alive with pretty much only the clothes on their backs," Assistant Garfield Fire Chief E.J. Morano said.
After learning that a social worker placed the family in Garfield, Morano and his fellow firefighters asked what they could do.
Bring Santa, they were told.
"We knew we could do better," Morano said.
More than a dozen members of Company 3, joined by Santa and helpers from Company 1, surprised the family Wednesday night.
"With donations from throughout out network, we got toys for all three children, clothes, a new purse and wallet for mom and more than $1,500 in grocery store cards," Morano said.
There were also donations made by several other families that were matched by the firefighters, he said.
The most touching gift of all, Morano said, was a $20 gift card that another young girl donated to the family.
"With all this family went through, to in such a small way make their holiday just a little bit better....," he said. "There were tears all around -- tears of joy."
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