Firefighters step up to aid Christmas for All

Lebanon firefighters came to the rescue once again Tuesday morning. A lot of children were saved from having no presents under their tree on Christmas morning thanks to the department's contributions to the annual Christmas for All campaign.
Nov 28, 2012
xmas 1  Photo: Kimberly Jordan The Lebanon Democrat

Members of the Lebanon Fire Department and volunteers with Wilson County's Christmas for All sorted through the hundreds of toys purchased by LFD for children in need of a present under the Christmas tree Dec. 25.
xmas 2  Photo: Kimberly Jordan The Lebanon Democrat

LFD's Kevin Henson helps volunteer Sondra Bishop fill a toy bag Tuesday at the Christmas for All warehouse at Westland United Methodist Church.

Lebanon firefighters came to the rescue once again Tuesday morning.

A lot of children were saved from having no presents under their tree on Christmas morning thanks to the department's contributions to the annual Christmas for All campaign.

Alan Ricketts with Wilson Bank & Trust heads up Christmas For All in the county and acts as a de facto Santa. With his volunteers acting as his elves, groups like the Lebanon Fire Department are mainstays for the organization because they take as many as 400 names from the CFA rolls by buying toys to be donated.

Firefighters zoomed around the warehouse building Tuesday at Westland United Methodist Church on Dawson Lane in Lebanon. Shouts like "Boy age 6," went up as they made sure each child on the department's list received a bag with gender- and age-appropriate toys.

Lt. Brian Fountain said firefighters had hit the stores early Tuesday morning shopping for the 400 children on the department's list.

"We shopped for kids birth to age 12," Fountain said. "After this we will help 1,800 more."

Fountain said the firefighters' Christmas for All efforts are the result of the department's on-going fundraising at a golf tournament, road blocks and firefighters collecting funds at Walmart on Black Friday.

He said the work for CFA is driven by LFD Chief Chris Dowell, who couldn't be at the warehouse Tuesday morning because he was doing "chief stuff."

"The golf tournament is one of our big hitters," Dowell said of the department's fundraisers. "We usually have a roadblock before Thanksgiving, but they are becoming too dangerous because everyone is in a hurry and doesn't stop."

He said the department wants to help as many kids as possible.

"We want to make sure local kids have a good Christmas. We give between $16,000 and $20,000 a year to the community," Dowell said. "We've been doing this for at least 25 years, every year I've been here."

He said his department will take on more names as the month wears on, and any families who lose their children's Christmas toys to fire, the LPD will step in to ensure those children have gifts under the tree.

Volunteer, and Lebanon Special School District board member Andy Brummett said the LFD takes more names each year, and that it's not too late to get a child on the list.

"Christmas for All will will take applications until Dec. 10 and accept toy donations until Dec. 15," Brummett said. "With funds, we can even visit the after Christmas sales and put toys in the warehouse for next year."

Firefighter Lucy Corlew was in charge of shopping for 5-year-old girls and 1-year-old boys. She is the mother of a girl and a 1-year-old boy, so she had a pretty good idea about what toys are desirable for those ages.

"For me, I like the Barbies and their sparkly clothes," Corlew said as she looked over the collection of Barbies stacked on the floor awaiting their summons to an appropriate toy bag. For the baby boys, Corlew had assembled and array of things sure to delight.

Nearby, another LPD firefighter was responding to calls for "female 4-year old" and grabbing a Candy Land game, a stuffed Minnie Mouse and a Bratz doll sure to please that little girl.

"Boys age 6-7" will get a football, a skateboard and a Hot Wheels toy truck.

CFA serves as a clearinghouse for those who apply for help with the Department of Human Services, Big Brothers of Mt. Juliet and the Watertown Angel Tree Program. Again this year, applications are distributed at the new DHS office in the strip mall next to Cici's Pizza. In Watertown, applications are at Wilson Bank & Trust.

CFA takes, and welcomes, toys for children, but they can serve more people when they connect children with sponsors. A sponsor can be a church, individual or civic organization that contacts CFA and commits to buying for as many children as they can afford. That's where groups like the LFD come in.

"Our primary goal is to place those in need with a sponsor," Ricketts said. "That way we can spend our money on the kids without sponsors."

Cash donations can be tough for some, so the CFA warehouse for toy donations opened after Thanksgiving and is now receiving toys. Last year CFA moved from the Wilson County Fairgrounds to the Westland United Methodist Church.

To volunteer services as an elf, for more information or instructions about dropping off donations, call 615-547-1106. The warehouse for CFA toy donations will be open Wednesday, the same day the organization is planning an open house and volunteer orientation. Cash or checks can be mailed to Christmas For All, P.O. Box 922, Lebanon, TN 37088.

Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com.

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