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Subway workers help make Christmas a happy holiday for local children


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Transit worker Denise Miller knows the horror of domestic violence first-hand, having once been a victim herself.


Tuesday, she and her co-workers brightened the day of a group of children living in a domestic abuse shelter by inviting them to meet Santa in a Queens subway station.


"For this one day, they can feel special and forget where they are living," said Miller, who organized the festivities. "We can bring some joy to them for one day."


About 30 kids from a domestic violence shelter gleefully filled the Main St. station on the No. 7 Flushing line to receive their gifts.


"I'm so excited," 8-year-old Daija said after climbing concrete stairs from the platform to the mezzanine where she spotted Santa.


The big man in red was holding court in a roped-off part area between a bank of turnstiles and a crew room.


Miller said she struck out on her own with her two children 20 years ago after being abused by her husband.


"I just muddled my way through," said Miller, who put herself and her children through college working 8-hour shifts in a token booth.


Several months ago, Miller mentioned to co-worker Ana Alvarez, a subway cleaner, that she wanted to invite shelter residents to the workers' holiday party.


Alvarez, 43, recommended a Volunteers of America's New Hope shelter system where she and her two children lived for three months.


"They asked me what was my dream," Alvarez recalled. "I told them I wanted to learn more English and work a better job. I don't want to live on welfare."


Three months later, Alvarez saved enough money to afford an apartment for herself and two children.


Two years ago, she was hired by NYC Transit and recently took a promotional test for a conductor's post.


Watching their children trek up to Santa yesterday, mothers told horror stories of brutal beatings and broken bones. One said her ex-husband put a gun to her head and threatened to pull the trigger.


For a while Tuesday, the horror was forgotten.


Daija received a doll, two board games and two coloring sets with markers and coloring books.


"I won't be bored anymore on weekends," she exclaimed to her mother.


Shelter residents have their own living quarters but visitors are not allowed. Kids can only play together in a recreation area.


Another mother, afraid to give her name, said she couldn't afford presents for her two daughters, one aged four, the other 10 months.


"This is very nice for them to do," she said, referring to the transit workers. "They can give her what I can't this year."


Transit workers donated well over 150 presents while managers picked up the food tab.


"They ain't got nothing," subway cleaner Thomas Miller, 48, said as he watched the smiling tykes, most of whom were between the ages of two and 12. "Somebody has to do something. What it comes down to is, who is going to step up and do it?"




December 17th 2008



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