Random Santa Drop Offs target joy to the needy of Schenectady

Hundreds of presents and pizza distributed Saturday
Krystle Potter, 8-years-old, in smiles as she receives a free pizza as they arrive to C.O.C.O.A. House on Stanley St. Saturday.
Krystle Potter, 8-years-old, in smiles as she receives a free pizza as they arrive to C.O.C.O.A. House on Stanley St. Saturday.

Picture six or seven police vehicles, sirens on, lights flashing, traveling swiftly and with purpose through some of the toughest streets in the city.

Then hear the resounding tones of Christmas music sounding loudly from those squad cars.

That was the scene today as the organization Save Our Streets organized its fourth annual “Random Santa Drop Offs.” The group partnered with the Schenectady Police Department, Brown Transportation and Domino’s Pizza to deliver presents and pizza to many children in need in Schenectady.

Police Sgt. Matt Dearing said normally a police mobilization like this would likely be tied to law enforcement action. He said he was glad to see the department get the chance to help deliver joy to the children and families.

“This brings a different perspective. It’s nice to bring a smile to people’s faces during the holiday season,” Dearing said.

Although the event has the word “random” in its title, the caravan of volunteers, many riding a Brown bus decked out with Christmas lights, and in Domino’s delivery cars hit specific targets in a coordinated blast of holiday gift giving: the C.O.C.O.A. House on Stanley Street, Steinmetz Homes, Yates Village, then Proctors, before moving onto the city of Albany.

William Rivis, founder of Save our Streets, said he started the Random Santa Drop Offs to spread Christmas cheer.

“No sign-ups needed,” Rivis said. “We just park the bus, hop out, knock on doors, stop traffic, walk into restaurants, stores. When I say random, this is really what it is.”

“There is a schedule of stops, it’s the most impoverished areas,” Rivis said. “We go to these areas, because we know these are the families in need.”

Gadiel Santana, 13, was walking down the street near Steinmetz Homes when he realized he was receiving an early Christmas present.

“I was just walking to the corner store,” Santana said. “I saw a lot of people here, the Dominos (mascot), and they just handed me a football. They said, ‘Hey, you like football?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I love football’.”

One of the Christmas standards played by the group was “Let it Snow” and as the lyrics go the weather outside was frightful Saturday, with chilling wind gusts making it feel far colder than temperature indicated.

Ramon Deleon, operations director for the local Domino’s franchise, said his company has experience with cold weather. So, they packed the estimated 100 free pizzas they gave away Saturday in protective sleeves to keep the pies warm.

“This is our second year partnering with Save our Streets,” Deleon said. “Essentially, there is no business that exists without community. So, this is our way of helping to build the community and give back to the community.”

Deleon said Domino’s pizza has a difficult history with Yates Village, one that he hopes events like the Random Santa Drop Offs can help improve.

“Back in 2000, a Domino’s Pizza guy was murdered here, in Yates Village,” Deleon noted. “So, this is what makes it even more important here, to provide a presence in Yates Village today. So, that Yates knows, not that we’ve necessarily moved on from what happened back then, but that we still want to be their partner.”

Rivis said he doesn’t track exactly how many presents his organization collects. But Rivis said he believes the random drop offs will distribute gifts to approximately 500 families this year, about double the number from last year. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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