After a few pulls of wrapping paper, happiness washed over Shareef Davis upon first sight of his Christmas present from the West Orange Police Benevolence Association: a new Air Hogs helicopter.
"I love it very much," the 12-year-old said, making no efforts to suppress his widest smile.
Sunday's first-ever Christmas service at the Church of Unconditional Love Christian Fellowship were brightened by several such moments, as nearly 20 children from special needs families, ranging from two months to 14 years old, were "blessed" — as Rev. Greg Boyle, Pastor, put it — with presents from a dozen West Orange police officers who attended the service tailed toward the kids on hand.
"It's something that I've done with other pastors in the past," Boyle said. "The kids light up. Having their heroes give them something at Christmas is wonderful."
"And it will impact their life. I wanted to bring that to this church."
A recently retired West Orange police sergeant, Boyle became a minister 12 years ago and previously served at Agape Worship Center in Bloomfield before Unconditional Love Christian Fellowship opened in January. The church engaged in previous outreach projects since opening, though this one was more special to the Pastor: Not only did it involve children from Orange and West Orange gathered from the West Orange Community House and Boys and Girls Club, also involved his brothers from West Orange's Finest who purchased toys for the kids and ShopRite gift cards for the families.
"Our kids are getting cared for," PBA President Chris Jacksic said, "we want to make sure they do, too."
Following a handful of musical performances that included his daughters Erinbrace (piano), Evalynne (violin) and Estherday (flute), Boyle preached for nearly 20 minutes before the children started growing restless, having seen the piles of wrapped presents sitting there for seemingly an eternity.
At this point, the police officers began taking down the piles and personally giving each child a greeting and a gift. After each kid received their present, they gathered in the front of the church to unwrap them — although some started anxiously tearing at the paper while impatiently waiting.
Seconds later, wrapping paper was strewn across the carpet as the kids and the police and their parents eagerly looked at the presents. Davis was just as excited for his six-year-old brother Da-Juan, both of whom hail Orange, when little brother received a brand new train set.
In all, a memorable first Christmas for Boyle and his congregation.
"We're Unconditional Love Christian Fellowship," Boyle said. "And that's what we're doing. We're sharing God's Unconditional Love with people that he desperately cares about."