SOMERS POINT — At first glance Monday evening, Dec. 16, it looked like there was something terribly wrong in Somers Point. Police cars, fire trucks, emergency vehicles with sirens blaring headed to Shore Medical Center. But it was instead something very right as Santa and Somers Point police Lt. John Barbieri along with plenty of elves headed to see the good little boys and girls who were sick and in the hospital. The “elves” were Somers Point police officers, firefighters, members of the Mainland National Honor Society and plenty of friends. For Barbieri it was his final shift as he retired after 30 years on the Somers Point Police Department.
“This is a last shift my way,” said Barbieri. A longtime advocate for families of Somers Point and making sure that every kid in town has something special at the holidays wanted to end his career bringing cheer to the hospital and along with all the helpers, drop off toys to the Hopkins home for the Wyatt Hopkins Blue Toy Drive.
Armed with toys, Barbieri along with Santa and his entourage headed into the emergency department where manager Sherri Jenkins and her staff welcomed the guests. Parents and the young patients were excited about the visit from Santa that maybe helped them feel just a little better that night. Santa even donned a mask as he entered the room to visit with a sick child.
After visiting with the children at the hospital it was on to the Hopkins' home. Rob and Desiree Hopkins lost their young son Wyatt unexpectedly several years ago and, in his honor, started a toy drive to help other children. This year, the boxes filled with toys spilled over from one room to the next. Barbieri and all his helpers walked into the Hopkins' home with their arms loaded with more toys. The beneficiary of so many people’s generosity would be children at St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee and Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia along with CASA in Somers Point, which in turn will give the toys to local children in foster care. The Hopkins family rented an RV and loaded up the gifts and toys — all 2,143 — and headed to Memphis to deliver them Wednesday, Dec. 18. Barbieri congratulated the Hopkins for honoring their son by helping other children.
Lt. John Barbieri started with the Somers Point Police Department in 1990 as a patrolman. He was promoted to sergeant in 2007 and was assigned to the Detective Bureau and the Patrol Division. He was promoted to lieutenant in September of 2018. Barbieri was a field training officer, field training coordinator and a member of the Somers Point SWAT Team earlier in his career.
For the past six years Barbieri has coordinated the Christmas activities in the Somers Point Police Department. Officers donate money for No Shave November and Barbieri reaches out to schools, churches and local organizations to find Somers Point families that need help during the holiday season. When he speaks with parents or guardians, he finds out exactly what those children are hoping for and shops for each child. It is Barbieri who arranges for the Somers Point Fire Department to have Santa come and help deliver the presents to the families personally. He works with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch in Egg Harbor Township, to also make sure the families have food for their holiday dinner. This year, the police department raised enough money that Barbieri was able to shop for children in the hospital’s pediatric unit and donate to the Wyatt Hopkins Toy Drive along with six Somers Point families.
Married with two children in college, Barbieri did not say what is next for him but helping others has been the benchmark of his three decades with the Somers Point Police Department, according to Kate Mackenzie of the police department.