Who We Are And What We Do
By: Melissa Lerma

The San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program is the city’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind. Since 1949, it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to — in 2003 — 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children. Even with these impressive numbers, many families were turned away last year due to limited funds. Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, neighborhood groups, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units. We also respond on a year-round basis to displaced children who become victims of fires, floods, and other such disasters.

Dependent solely on donations to stay afloat each year, the Toy Program places collection barrels at retail establishments, street fairs, Christmas parties, and many other functions. We also hold an annual dance to benefit the Program. We also ask the local print and broadcast media to help communicate our need for financial support.

To mark our 50th Anniversary, we broadened our focus by launching a fundraising campaign to meet the growing demand of needy children and to purchase high quality educational toys and games. Although the items typically donated to us (toy cars, dolls, etc.) are greatly appreciated, our goal is to distribute to the youth of our city toys that stimulate the mind and help develop important skills.

The San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program maintains a very low overhead. We retain only two seasonal employees and our operating expenses are minimal — truck rentals for collecting toys, office and wrapping supplies, utilities, and telephone. Thanks to the support of our tireless volunteers, the vast majority of donations go directly toward the purchase of new toys, games, and books.

We invite you to tour our Old Firehouse Number 30 located at the corner of Third and Fourth Streets in San Francisco, near PacBell Park. For a few months each year, the Toy Program transforms this old building into a bustling Santa’s workshop. Come visit our elves and see them in action! If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (415) 777-0440.


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