When police Officer Carlos Ramos was 10 years old, he spent time in a Manhattan shelter, feeling helpless and afraid. Now, at 31, Ramos is trying to give back.
Ramos, who is assigned to the Transit Anti-Terrorism Unit, has been collecting toys since last week -- Lego sets, footballs, and dolls -- to donate to the Flushing Family shelter in East Williamsburg, police said.
"It really became a burden on my heart. I really could not let it go,” Ramos said in a statement about the experience of being in a shelter himself. "These gifts are a sign of love, a sign of affection. They say ‘Somebody does care for you. It is going to be OK. You are not alone.’ A small detail like that goes a long way.”
This is not the first time Ramos, an officer for eight years, has given been praised for his thoughtfulness. In January 2014, Ramos was photographed on the subway holding his hat with a photo of Avonte Oquendo taped inside, a law enforcement official said. The picture of Ramos was posted to Instagram just as a body that had washed up in Queens was confirmed to be the missing 14-year-old autistic boy who had run away.
And in December 2013, Ramos was praised for giving his sweatshirt off his own back to a homeless man on the street, the official said.
Before last week Ramos had never shared his own past and struggle with his fellow officers, police said. But now he's hoping it will pay dividends.
“Being able to open up not only it allowed me to express my feelings to my colleagues," he said in a statement, "but it allowed my colleagues to understand why the toy drive was so important to me.”
Anyone who is interested in donating new or gently used gifts for children 1 to 13 years old, can drop off unwrapped presents at Transit District 3, where Ramos' unit is based, at 145th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue in Harlem.