Brothers Before Others Makes Spirits Bright

In conjunction with the Kenneth Tietjen Memorial Foundation, members of Brothers Before Others paid a special visit to some very special people.

A few weeks before Christmas 2017, members of both foundations dressed as Santa and his elves for the purpose of delivering Christmas gifts to families who were residing at a domestic violence shelter.

The residents of the shelter in question were facing circumstances so dire in their personal lives that they fled with the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry.

Prior to the visit, Laurie Tietjen, who heads the foundation she runs in her brother’s name, Port Authority Police Officer Kenneth Tietjen who was killed on 9/11, made contact with the director of the shelter. Laurie had a simple request: she asked the director to poll each resident, both adult and child, and ask them, without consideration for money or circumstance, if they could have one gift for Christmas, what would it be.

Laurie then coordinated with BBO Founder Michael Burke and, between the two foundations, each and every gift the residents asked for was secured. During the visit, each family had individual ‘face time’ with Santa, where they were presented with the very gifts they had asked for.

Below is the email the director had sent to both foundations following the visit:

Dear Santa and his band of fabulous Elves;

I have not stopped thinking about your visit to our house last Thursday nite.  I’ve been with 180 Turning Lives Around for almost 34 years(!), and I can honestly say that I have never been quite so moved or overwhelmed as I have been from your visit.

The little boy who upon seeing Santa exclaimed, “Santa you didn’t come to my house last year!” surely had his faith restored in the magic of Christmas that night.  I’m sure you, like me, have memories that will never leave you.  Like the little girl who kept riding her pink hotwheels round and round and couldn’t contain her joy, she kept squealing the whole time!  Or the boy who had just come into the house with his Mom and two brothers a couple of hours before—then he opened the Crash video game and yelled, “I can’t believe I got Crash!, I can’t believe I got Crash” skipping and jumping all over the house.  How about the teen girl who got a beautiful purse and kept saying, “is this for real?”. 

I saw a little girl and her brother patiently standing by waiting for Santa to call them up.  The girl looked so sad!  I said to her “your turn will come soon” and she responded, “I don’t think he has anything for us, he didn’t know we were here”.   She went on to ride her bicycle and each time she passed me yelled “I got a shopkins bike!, my bike is shopkins!”  

Meanwhile the little baby who was passed around and enjoyed sitting in the crook of everyone’s arm, safe and warm,  surveying the scene.  Who can forget his beautiful brown eyes?!

How can I just say “thank you”.  How can I put into words the sights and sounds and feelings from that night, not to mention the impact you made on all of us and all of these families. 

I hope each and every one who worked behind the scenes, who came that evening, who made such a tremendous effort to bless all of us with your presence and your presents, has a peace-filled and wonderful holiday with your loved ones.  You eased the burdens of children and earned your wings that night!

With great affection and admiration,


Anna Diaz-White, Executive Director

180 Turning Lives Around, Inc.

For more information on 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc or for assistance with domestic violence, please visit:



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