On Saturday, December 20, I witnessed a selfless act of humanity and compassion.

I heard about a program in Fall River that assures a Christmas to remember for local children who could use some holiday spirit. Together, the Fall River Police and Fire Departments made sure these kids didn't have to go without this year.

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Lead by Mike Borden, a New Bedford Probation Officer and his good friend Sergeant Brett Kimball, this was the 24th year running. Each year around Christmas time, the police and fire departments meet at Blessed Trinity Church on Plymouth Avenue where thousands of toys are waiting for them, recently wrapped by a team of volunteering "elves." The program annually has over a hundred volunteers, but due to COVID-19, they had to pull back on staff this year. And the event is all thanks of course to the hospitality of Rev. Robert Nemkovich, Jr.

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Despite the complication of the coronavirus, the wrapping team was able to pull it off with fewer people, safely and distantly from one another.

The squad then took the bags of toys and filled up their vehicles and even one of the city fire engines. Earlier this month I was invited to shadow the toy drive, so I observed this process firsthand that day and was blown away from the get-go.

"Come on Gazelle, it's time to hit the road," Borden yelled over to me above the busy wrapping of toys.

As we proceeded to one of the squadron cars, I was greeted by none other than Santa and Mrs. Claus, who assisted alongside the police and fire personnel to help deliver the toys in true Christmas fashion.

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One by one, the bags of toys were brought to families all across Fall River, each one resulting in the priceless smiles of innocent children who wished for nothing more than a toy or two underneath their Christmas trees this year – that is, if they even had one.

The toy drive spans from Wareham to Swansea, helping out families who have been involved in violent relocations, fires or simply an unfortunate loss. Each child involved will get the chance to wake up on Christmas morning with multiple toys to unwrap. That's the whole point of this, to reinstate hope.

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I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize the people behind the scenes who made this truly come to life. Between the Fall River Police and Fire Department, Rev. Nemkovich, Mayor Paul Coogan, Fall River Chief of Police Jeffrey Cardoza, Fall River Sgt. Brett Kimball, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, all the volunteers who helped collect, organize and wrap the toys, and most importantly, Mike Borden and his wife, who I consider to be the true Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Fall River.

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From the very first delivery to the last, my heart was overflowing with love from the generosity and selfless acts of our men and women on the frontline. Joy filled the eyes of every boy and girl who found themselves face-to-face with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The true meaning of Christmas was alive and well that day.

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