• January 20, 2020

Retirement party takes back seat to toy drive - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Retirement party takes back seat to toy drive

SPPD member who organized event ends career by giving back

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 11:47 am

SOMERS POINT — At about 5 p.m. on the day Lt. John Barbieri retired from the Somers Point Police Department, a cake commemorating the occasion sat untouched while Barbieri, his co-workers and volunteers rushed to prepare to give gifts to children in the community. 

Barbieri started this initiative, in which members of the police department give presents to those in need around the holidays in Somers Point, in 2014. This was the sixth year for the project.

The gifts were distributed Monday, Dec. 16, on Barbieri’s last day of work with the police department after 30 years of service.

Barbieri, of Egg Harbor Township, chose to pursue a career in law enforcement when he was finishing college. 

“I had decided that would be the best opportunity for me as an individual where it gave me the opportunity to go ahead and give back to the community in which I grew up in and hopefully to make things a little bit better for the lives of our citizens here in Somers Point,” he said. 

Barbieri said he plans to stay in the area after retirement. 

In 2019, the police distributed gifts to patients in Shore Medical Center’s pediatrics unit for the first time. They also gave toys to the family of Wyatt Hopkins, as well as to local families in need. Hopkins, a 4-year-old boy who lived in Somers Point, died unexpectedly two years ago.  His family holds a toy drive in his memory. 

The Somers Point police also partnered with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey – Southern Branch to provide Christmas dinner to families.  

“It’s just the opportunity to see the children’s joy and happiness when you deliver gifts to them,” Barbieri said of his inspiration. 

Barbieri is a self-described Christmas fanatic and said he didn’t hesitate when he had the opportunity to do the drive.  

They begin working on the drive in October when they meet and interview the families. They receive a wish list for each child, and Barbieri said they “do the best we can to accommodate what’s on the list.”

To raise money for the toys, police officers participate in No Shave November, which was extended to December last year. He estimated that almost the entire department participates in it. 

The police secretaries are also involved in the drive, according to Barbieri, and help with organizing it, take care of some of the shopping and wrap most of the gifts. 

When it’s time to give the gifts out, officers partner with the Somers Point Volunteer Fire Company and distribute the gifts personally. Santa Claus also rides on the firetruck and goes to each stop.

For the past two years, students from Mainland Regional High School also volunteered and dressed as elves this year while delivering the presents. 

For Barbieri, the toy drive is a highlight of his career. 

“This is my last day and I couldn’t ask for anything better than to go out delivering our Christmas presents to our community and families,” he said.

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