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DV Pilot Police & Fire

Bergen County PBA Toy Drive Draws Record Number Of Volunteers

From left: Fairview Police Capt. Dave Brennan, Palisades Park Police Officer Michael DeBartolo -- with Michael Jr. -- Dominic "Uncle Junior" Chianese, Norwood Sgt. Paul Capu. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Johnny Manganiotis of Mr. Cupcakes Photo Credit: COURTESY: Johnny Manganiotis
A volunteer prepares gifts for loading. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Members of the Closter Fire Department work the grill. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Military members form an assembly line to load vehicles with gifts. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
A military member from the Teaneck Armory loads a gift onto a truck. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Don Nicoletti, bottom, and PBA members load a giant stuffed monkey into the Paramus Motorcycle Unit trailer. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Former Closter Police Sgt. Don Nicoletti, bottom row, second from left, military members from the Teaneck Armory and friends break from sorting and loading. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Closter Police Officer Justin Krapels, left, and Sgt. James Buccola Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Johnny Meatballs feeds a member of the Paramus Police Motorcycle Unit. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Military members from the Teaneck Armory lend hands. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Margarita Urgiles, center, of Wallington, and military members helped load gifts into trucks for the Bergen County PBA's 27th Annual Toy Drive. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

CLOSTER, N.J. — Actor Dominic Chianese shook his head and smiled Wednesday afternoon as a legion of volunteers inspected and sorted thousands of presents for ill and needy children at the Closter firehouse during the annual Bergen County PBA Toy Drive.

"Twenty-seven years they've been doing this," Chainese, who played "Uncle Junior" on "The Sopranos," told Daily Voice. "You can tell when something is genuine — and this is genuine. It's extremely moving."

A record 47 law enforcement agencies united with military members from the Teaneck Armory for this year's toy drive, the Northeast's largest.

Loved ones and friends helped the “Santa Response Team” sort through a massive mountain of presents. Meanwhile, vendors served up free food and a deejay played holiday tunes that rang through the mostly industrial and commercial neighborhood.

Volunteers formed assembly lines from the fire station to a U-Haul truck, a Paramus Motorcycle Unit trailer and other vehicles arranged in formation outside.

Barbie dolls, bicycles, video games and much more were then trucked to, among other locations, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

"There are guys who come year after year for this, because of what it means to the kids," Fair Lawn Police Officer Michael O'Brien said.

Fairview police were among a half-dozen new law enforcement agencies that joined this year.

“We just took it and ran with it,” said Sgt. John Perroti, whose department raised $10,500 in nine days.

Leading the team once again was Donald Nicoletti -- a retired Closter police sergeant, now a Lodi school resource -- who helped launch the drive in 1988.

“This is like a chain, and every link is what makes this chain so strong,” he said. "These men and women in blue have worked very hard.”

As is the custom, local families in need will have personal wish lists filled. They include law enforcement families who've suffered a serious illness or other hardship, including a couple from the NYPD, Nicoletti said.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the Paramus motorcycle unit was escorting the gift-filled trucks and police cars from Closter to Hackensack, stopping traffic at every intersection to make sure the convoy made it safely to the hospital.

PART TWO: Bergen PBA Toy Drive Brings Joy To Young Cancer Patients, Tears To Officers

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