Cops put on Santa hats Fill Eastie family’s home with spirit

Cops put on Santa hats
Fill Eastie family’s home with spirit
By Richard Weir  |   Saturday, December 25, 2010  |  |  Local Coverage

DO-GOODERS: Boston police officers Carolyn Kennedy, left, and Debra Blandin delivered Christmas decorations and presents to an East Boston family.
Photo by Mark Garfinkel

The 4 a.m. call was for a domestic incident — a yelling match — inside a two-family home in East Boston’s Eagle Hill. The story could have ended with a routine police warning.

Instead, a little girl will wake up today to a decorated tree and the quiet blessing of gifts borne by strangers — strangers who arrived in a cruiser, wearing Boston Police Department uniform, and returned with the humble spirit of Christmas in their hearts.

“We are just people helping people,” said Boston police officer Carolyn Kennedy. “That’s what makes a community — good deeds passed on,”

This particular good deed began last Saturday in a most unlikely way, when a relative phoned police to say a couple had gotten into a loud argument that awakened neighbors.

When Kennedy and her partner, officer Debra Blandin, walked into the second-floor flat, they braced for an explosive atmosphere. “You’re always on guard because domestics are one of the most dangerous calls to go on because it’s personal, emotional,” Kennedy said.

But what they encountered was a wife angry at her husband, a cook, because he came home late after a night of drinking with buddies and woke up their toddler to give her a hug and kiss.

“He stated that he always comes home and hugs the baby and kisses the baby,” said Kennedy who, after lecturing the dad that a child needs her sleep, sent him off to cool down.

As the officers comforted the rattled mother, they looked around the tiny apartment and saw that its walls, while covered in photos of the couple and their adorable daughter, lacked any holiday lights or decorations.

“There was no Christmas spirit at all, especially having a 2-year-old in the house,” said Blandin, 48, a mother of two teens. Added Kennedy, 49, a mom and grandma: “The house was immaculate. It looked great. It was just missing presents. And every kid has to have presents to open.”

The officers said they had a gut feeling the young El Salvadoran family could use a little help. As delicately as they could, they raised the issue. Yes, the toddler’s mother told them, we do celebrate Christmas — but we’re hurting financially this year.

The two cops, both 15-year veterans, had been on duty all night. Their shift was almost over and all they needed to do was head back to the Paris Street station and write up a report.

But first, they made a detour. They hit a 24-hour Walgreens and bought a 4-foot-tall tree that came bedecked with lights, a baby doll and a play oven with a cupcake pan and a tea kettle. Then they wrapped the toys.

“We know for a fact that kids like to tear things open,” Blandin said.

The next morning, they returned to the house after their midnight-8 a.m. shift. The mother, dressed in her church clothes, answered the door.

“She came down the stairs, Blandin said, “and her face lit up.”

For cops, said Lt. Christopher Hamilton, the officers’ commander, success is often measured by how many tickets one writes, how many arrests one makes, how many convictions one gets. But the public, he said, is going to measure you by the kind of person you are. Kennedy and Blandin?

“Quite simply, they’re good cops, but deep down inside, they are also good people.”

For the two women in the BPD uniforms, it was simpler.

“She just touched us,” Blandin said of the bubbly little girl with the bright brown eyes. “That beautiful smile, it melts you. When we go to calls like this, they’re the ones that count. The children, as long as they’re OK, everything is good.”

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