By Lee Weyhrich
Fire departments are known for saving people and their homes, they are even known for saving kitties from trees, but for more than three decades, the Trussville Fire Department has also been known for saving Christmas for people who would otherwise have to go without.
For 33 years, the Trussville Fire Department has held an annual Christmas For Kids toy drive. Donations of new unwrapped toys and money are collected from donors. These toys are then distributed to needy families in a manner similar to the Toys for Tots program maintained by the United States Marine Corps, though the two programs are not affiliated. Last year’s drive helped around 200 children and this year’s drive is looking to help a similar amount.
“The number of donations is about what we receive every year by this time,” Assistant Volunteer Fire Chief Jerry Caltado said. “We usually have around 100 families in need each year. This year we have about 60 and consider this a good thing.
Caltado said ultimate goal is to get the world to a point where nobody needed the help.
“That’s the ultimate goal, I think,” he said. “Until then we are happy to help any way we can.”
The donation time begins each year at Thanksgiving and continues until the Sunday before Christmas. The largest percentage of donations came through Everything Christmas, an annual arts and crafts show. The event is sponsored by the Trussville Historical Society and took place at the Trussville Civic Center this past weekend
People who wished to attend the event were allowed to bring a new, unwrapped toy in exchange for a free ticket to the event. People could also buy a raffle ticket from the fire department’s booth at the show. Cataldo said that between the art show and private donations the department has already received a pickup truck load of toys.
Additionally an angel tree has been set up at Holy Infant of Prague Catholic Church to collect toys. These toys will be picked up the second week of December. In addition to the toys, cash donations have been collected and so far have totaled near $4,000. The cash donations will also be used to buy things for needy children.
“My favorite part is when we get together to go shopping,” Jackie Carrol the department’s representative at Everything Christmas said. “We get to be Santa’s elves for the day and that makes you feel really good.”
According to Cataldo, the department’s greatest need at this time is food. The schools are doing a food drive, but the department is always low on canned food and other non-perishable goods to help needy families.
“We just appreciate the help everybody has given us,” Cataldo said. “This is a wonderful community that does a lot to give to those in need. They support us well we appreciate it.”
Donations of new unwrapped toys are still being accepted at any Trussville Fire Department location. For any other questions about donation or specific needs Jerry Cataldo may be reached at 655-3464.