CLOSTER, N.J. – A group of local vendors will serve up eats as emergency service workers, National Guard troops, loved ones and friends pile presents at the Closter firehouse during the Dec. 16 annual PBA Toy Drive for terminally ill, sick and needy children.
"I like to give what I can give," said Johnny "Meatballs" DeCarlo of Wood-Ridge, who'll be dishing his original meatballs for the fifth year in a row.
"I call them the 'Holy Trinity — veal pork and beef," he said.
DeCarlo also uses Jersey tomatoes, which he called "the best in the world."
He'll be joined by several fellow vendors.
Like DeCarlo, Sonja Kramer of Cutie Cupcakes — that operates out of rented space in Westwood — and Frankie "Antipasto" of Buon Antipasto in Garfield are returning veterans.
"It’s so much harder for us as little people to do charity work," said Kramer, a Dumont native who lives in Cresskill. "[But] it’s our community and I want to help whoever I can whenever I can."
New vendors include Daniel DeMiglio and his Callahan's hot dog truck -- toting 400 wieners donated by Sabrett -- and Demarest Farms of Hillsdale, which is bringing the doughnuts.
Members of 47 local police departments, the Bergen County Sheriff's Office and troops at the Teaneck Armory will bring unwrapped toys that they've been gathering the past two weeks to the firehouse to be inspected and sorted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Then a group of volunteers -- nicknamed the Santa Response Team -- will bring the toys to sick and terminally ill youngsters at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center and Englewood Medical Center. Other local organizations will receive presents, as well.
Leading the team once again will be retired Closter Police Sgt. Donald Nicoletti, one of the driving forces behind the Bergen County PBA Toy Drive since it’s inception 27 years ago.
Nicoletti told Daily Voice on Wednesday that he hopes there are enough toys donated to also fill Christmas wish lists for several local families, some of them related to law enforcement officers.