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Public Employee Press

Ambulance crews at Elmhurst Hospital
Playing Santa

By ALFREDO ALVARADO


Children mob Santa's stand-in Local 3621 President Vincent Variale and his helpers
Lt. Richard Erdey, EMT Sandra Butler and Local 2507 President Israel Miranda at Elmhurst Hospital.

Young patients at Elmhurst Hospital got a wonderful surprise Dec. 19 when a roly-poly fellow in a red suit arrived with gifts galore. Santa's stand-in, Uniformed EMS Officers Local 3621 President Vincent Variale, had gathered his crew of helpers from Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Local 2507 at nearby Station 46 to hand out the more than 400 presents they collected in their first Christmas gift drive in Queens.

Local 2507 member Sandra Butler, an EMT based at the Elmhurst station, had always wanted to organize a toy drive for Christmas and began collecting the gifts in October.

"I wanted to show everyone that we really care about the community. It's not just a job for us," she said.

More members joined in, and Lt. Richard Erdey of Local 3621 coordinated media outreach and helped distribute the toys. Donations came pouring in, and among the shiny race cars, fire trucks and footballs were 16 handmade blankets knitted by seniors from the nearby Raices Senior Center in Corona and the Sunnyside Senior Center.

"Everybody was a part of this. The seniors, our members, everyone pitched in for the kids," Butler said.


Members sort hundreds of toys at Station 46 for a surpise visit from Santa.

With wheeled bins filled to the top with gifts, Variale led a procession of helpers from the ambulance station to the hospital, then down a crowded hallway to the pediatric clinic, where they were met by staff and smiling children.

"I'm having as much fun as the kids," said the union leader as he passed out toys to children waiting with their parents.

"Sandra did a great job collecting all of these toys and coordinating the event," said Local 2507 President Israel Miranda, who also lent Santa a helping hand. "Our members are very special people."

Everyone at the hospital was so happy with the union toy drive that Santa and his helpers have been asked to return next Christmas. "I'm so happy they feel that way," said Butler.


 
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