State Police Maj. Chris Dicomitis is facing retirement. It’s not by choice, as officers are required to retire after 25 years of service or when they reach 62. Dicomitis believes he’s the first to reach the mandatory retirement age.
He’s uncertain what the future will bring, yet he already knows he’ll miss “Kids, Cops and Christmas,” the program that has grown from a modest toy collection to one involving police departments from across the state, corporate sponsors, cash donations to worthy organizations and this year the collection of 3,000 toys.
Dicomitis, State Police Superintendent Col. James Manni, Warwick Chief Rick Rathbun, representatives from the offices of the state Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney along with Mayor Joseph Solomon and council members Donna Travis and Steve McAllister joined at the Buttonwoods Community Center Tuesday to celebrate another successful drive.
Dicomitis was asked to run the program this year. He reached out to Cardi’s, CVS, Walgreens and others that have come through with toy donations. New this year are Alex and Ani, Boscov’s and Walmart. He said he was surprised to learn of the Walmart Foundation, which came through with a $2,000 donation that enabled $500 contributions to four nonprofits including the Warwick Police Athletic League. Toys are also collected by departments, and in the case of Warwick collection bins were placed at headquarters and other locations.
Dicomitis said this year’s drive was one of the best, which he attributed to the economy. Police determine where the toys are most needed in their communities and see that the needy get them.
Money is also a big help.
As part of the ceremony, Chief Rathbun presented a $250 check from the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association to Paul Salera, executive director of Westbay Community Action. Salera said it couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time. Earlier in the day the agency received a call from a woman who had just learned that her sister’s three children would be with her. It caught her by surprise and she didn’t have the money to cope with the situation.
“Now she’ll be able to get them Christmas gifts,” Salera said.
Rathbun praised his officers for their efforts and what that means for Warwick.
“It’s good to be able to give good news to the community,” he said.
Dicomitis and the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association had planned to hold the event at Oakland Beach School, but because schools were closed Tuesday it was hastily moved to the Buttonwoods Community Center. Manni was appreciative of the quick turnaround, finding it indicative of the commitment to the program.
“This has really taken on a whole new level of participation,” he said. He remarked on the number of businesses that have become a part of the program and their generosity.
Steve Dambruch from the Attorney General’s office applauded the fact that law enforcement officers do so much more than enforcing the law. “They’re making connections with the community,” he said. U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman called those relationships “paramount.”
“Contributing back, that’s what makes a community,” said Mayor Solomon. He said the program and police are “educating students to share” and with that action building a future for Warwick.
“We’re just beginning. It’s only going to get better,” he said.
Toys displayed at the Buttonwoods Center were a just a sampling of the overall collection. Most of those will be staying in Warwick to be distributed through Westbay Community Action and neighborhood groups such as JONAH, or Join Our Neighborhood and Help.
Dicomitis was beaming.
“This has been the best part of the job,” he said of his 22-year career with the State Police. Somehow, even after he retires and someone else takes on the assignment, it’s hard to imagine he won’t find a role to play.