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Activists, PBA bring Christmas to Hamilton Hill

Activists, PBA bring Christmas to Hamilton Hill

Tuesday’s deliveries, however, are just a prelude to the main event on Christmas Eve.
Activists, PBA bring Christmas to Hamilton Hill
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford and "Save Our Streets" activist Will Rivas, at right, deliver a Christmas tree and toys.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Shamel Beavers, 3, didn’t want to wait to open his Christmas gift Tuesday — and his mom didn’t mind.

“Go ahead, open it,” Elizabeth Beckett told her son.

After he ripped off the wrapping paper and took a moment to register what he got, Shamel registered an approving smile. He got a package of plastic Army men. Not bad for someone who, when asked what else he wanted for Christmas, said: “Just a box.”


Beckett’s other two kids — Novaj and Nazaire Cruz, 2 years and 7 months, respectively — were also in line for gifts. The family also got a Christmas tree and decorations as part of a now-annual tradition headed up by Schenectady activist Will Rivas.

Joined by Schenectady police officers, including Chief Eric Clifford; Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam; and friends and family, Rivas delivered gifts and Christmas decor to five families across the city Tuesday.

“Merry Christmas!” Shamel said to everyone in the swarm of people who swept in to drop the presents and decorations off. He doled out high-fives to Rivas and others around him. “Thank you.”

After stopping by Beckett’s Albany Street apartment, Rivas delivered more presents and decorations to the Glenwood Boulevard home of Latasha and John Rivera. There, he put the police to work setting up the tree.

“Mrs. Rivera, we have a tree here for you,” Rivas said as he came into their home with officers by his side. “You want the officers to put it up for you? They will do it.”

Latasha Rivera, who along with her husband is raising five kids ages 14 and under, said the holiday deliveries were “a blessing.”

Her husband agreed. “You have no idea,” he said. “We have five kids, so everything is a help.”

Tuesday’s deliveries, however, are just a prelude to the main event on Christmas Eve. On Saturday, Rivas and his crew of helpers are loading up a school bus full of donated presents and making deliveries to families across the area, swinging into Rotterdam and Scotia as well, he said.

Rivas expects to deliver gifts to over 100 families by the time all is said and done. The deliveries will be random and strewn across the city and neighboring towns, he said. Last year, Rivas organized a smaller Christmas-day gift delivery, but has at least doubled it in size this year.

“This was just for today,” Rivas said as he headed over to the Rivera home. “I’m not done, this is just warming up.”

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