Lifestyle

Hot charity: Fire department seeks food and toys

The annual Community Food and Toy Drive for Des Moines and Federal Way is under way at all South King Fire and Rescue stations.

The need is greater this year, but donations are slow to arrive.

This year, the department is helping 125 families, including 460 kids, have a happy holiday. Each child will receive two presents, and the family will get a Christmas dinner and groceries for a week.

So far, the fire department has raised about $8,000.

Donations of toys are down significantly, about half what they were last year, said organizer and fire Captain Kevin Crossen. Crossen has been helping to organize the event for 15 years.

They will be having toy drives in Federal Way from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at the H-Mart, 31217 Pacific Highway S., then from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wal-Mart, 1900 S. 314th St.

"We'll be the cold ones standing there with a big red truck," spokeswoman Donna Conner said.

Especially needed are gifts for toddlers as well as teenagers ages 12 to 18.

Each year, the fire department works with Federal Way schools to determine which families need help during the holidays.

The department begins work on the drive in the fall. After Thanksgiving the drive really kicks into high gear, and all stations begin accepting toy and food donations. Monetary contributions can be dropped off at stations and can also be made online at firefightersfoundation.org.

Volunteers

Shortly before Christmas, volunteers from the community — including Kiwanis, Lions and Key Club — work on wrapping hundreds of presents.

The department also works with other programs in the city, including churches and the Multi-Service Center, to help distribute everything.

"Everything goes back to the community somehow," Conner said.

The high schools are also getting involved, holding a competition to see who can collect the most canned food. Decatur won last year. The winner this year will receive the trophy as well as $500.

The schools usually bring in far more than that; Crossen said it's a win-win situation for everyone.

FYI

The annual Community Food and Toy Drive started in the 1980s with retired fire Chief M.L. "Bud" Thorson and local community service clubs. When the program first started, they were only able to help about 30 families. In 2008, the drive provided a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and a week's supply of food to 130 families and presents for 451 children.

Citizens may drop off donations of canned food or dry goods, new unwrapped toys (no stuffed animals please) or money at any South King Fire and Rescue Fire Station until Dec. 18. Donations of cash or checks made out to the "Community Food and Toy Drive" will also be collected. Delivery of food and toys is set for Dec. 22.

To learn more or donate, contact Donna Conner at (253) 946-7246.

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