By: Melissa Lerma

Santa’s Workshop on Wheels — the jewel in the crown of The San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program — has brought Christmas joy to thousands of children since its inception in 1997.

The Workshop was begun by Firefight-er John Voelker, as a means of delivering hope and cheer to children from lower income neighborhoods. To that end, a 27-foot construction trailer was transformed into a traveling wonderland. Decorated inside and out with lovely Christmas scenes, this mobile Santa’s Workshop is operated by off-duty firefighters. It visits about fifteen elementary schools every year, reaching about thousands of students throughout the holiday season.

During a typical school visit, five or six firefighters staff Santa’s Workshop on Wheels. Two or three help to organize the children, two take pictures of the kids with Santa, and one fills the big boots of Santa himself. Our objective is to reach students whose families cannot afford $15 to have their children photographed with Santa at large department stores or malls.

Although volunteers maintain the mechanics of the trailer and the vehicle used for towing it from location to location, the program requires funding for Polaroid film. The lowest price we have been able to secure is about $1 per picture. A donation of $5,000 would ensure that every child we visit would go home with a photo taken with Santa and — during generous years — a small gift as well.

If you would like to have your school selected for a visit, please call us at (415) 777-0440. Dates fill up quickly, so it’s best to contact us well in advance. To maximize the experience, we limit our visits to children enrolled in kindergarten through third grade. We also require that teachers assist in keeping the children on their best behavior while Santa’s Workshop on Wheels is on site.


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