On Christmas Eve morning, two local families got early Christmas presents thanks to the work of members of the Howell Police Department and local businesses as well as donations from residents and businesses around the area. A large number of the donations came from Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School students.
Anthony Lamendola said he was at a loss for words as he watched his family open the donated gifts. “I’m just in shock,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling. This is beyond amazing.” Lamendola is a wounded veteran who said he left his family’s name at St. Veronica’s Church which helped connect him with what has been an annual tradition in the township.
Mike Mangano was also overwhelmed as he watched presents, a new couch and a new dishwasher get unloaded by the officers. As a former first responder in Howell and Farmingdale, Mangano said it was unusual to be on the receiving end of help from the people he served for more than two decades. “I’m trying to grasp everything that’s happening right now,” he said. “Boxes of stuff for my kids, a brand new couch, everything is going to be used a lot.”
Mangano said the outpouring of support he received was something he would not soon forget. “It’s a predicament I never thought I’d be in but I’m glad there are people out there to help because this is what it’s all about right here.”
One of the people responsible for the delivery the past few years is Sgt. Joseph Markulic who said he enjoys being able to help people during the holiday season. “This is the best,” he said. “What more can you as than to help somebody else in need. I’m okay and I want to be able to help somebody else put a smile on all the kids faces. That’s what it’s all about.”
Markulic said he has spent the past four holiday seasons making deliveries, focusing mostly on people who suffered traumatic brain injuries. Last year the helped arrange to make the holidays brighter for more than 40 first responder families recovering from Hurricane Sandy. With the help of social media and family and friends he said he is thankful the generosity of people willing and ready to help others.
By the time their trucks and trailers were empty there was a sense of accomplishment and pride among the people who started their day by bringing a smile to others.