San Francisco Fire Fighter’s Toy Program Begins 55th Year
By: Melissa Lerma
Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. Toys, books and arts and crafts gifts are being ordered right now. Collection barrels are being prepped for painting and decorating. If this is the year you can find time to volunteer, we can always use your help.

We will be laying out the ground work for 2004 starting in September. Posters will be ordered, applications are updated, and trucks are repaired. This early work will ensure a smooth process so the members of the San Francisco Fire Department, along with their friends and family, can help deliver gifts to those in need in San Francisco

If you haven’t made it down to the Toy Program, here’s the scoop. Every year we distribute over 200,000 toys throughout San Francisco. We reach out to tens of thousands of children directly through our application process or through our Santa’s Workshop on Wheels (I’ll explain further on).

On November 1st, we will have applications available in every firehouse for the general public to request toys. By mid-November, businesses throughout San Francisco will start scheduling a barrel delivery to their location so that they can collect toys for us. We deliver and pick-up over 300 barrels per toy season. This requires a lot of volunteers to manage this.

After we receive and process an application from a family in need of gifts, we schedule an appointment for them to pick up their toys starting December 1. Every day in December thru Christmas we will average 200-300 families!!! We need help!!! What kind of help? Stocking shelves, warehousing, driving, sorting, bagging…

What else? How about ‘Santa’s Workshop on Wheels’. A beautifully renovated trailer complete with Christmas scenes and Santa that travels to San Francisco elementary schools to visit with underprivileged children. The children can whisper their wishes and get a photo with Santa. Who is Santa? Could be you! Really … we need Santa’s. We need elves. You don’t really have to dress like an elf but we need volunteers to go out with the trailer, set up and take photos of the children with Santa. This is quite a hit with the schools. These kids usually don’t get the big photo package with Santa at the mall. If you enjoy being around children (we limit K-3) this can be fun.

Another popular way to volunteer is to attend social functions in uniform. The Toy Program is regularly invited to a number of sit-down dinners, Christmas parties, and tree lighting events where a large number of guests have been asked to bring a gift for the Toy Program. The venues are usually quite nice and the ease and opportunity to donate directly to a member of the Fire Department is quite the thrill.

Many of our volunteers are retired firefighters. We look forward to seeing some new faces this year with all the new retirees. Congratulations … now get to work! Many of you have already jumped in and we can’t thank you enough. So if any of you have any time available, please consider helping out.

Our schedule is Monday thru Friday thru November. In December, we will include Saturdays. The doors open at 0800 and close at 1500 (we usually don’t get out till 1600). The highlight of the day is, of course, lunch. A generous tradition Johnny V instituted a few years ago … firehouses sign up to cook lunch for the daily volunteers during the Toy Season! Volunteers are treated to firehouse specialties and incredible hospitality. Firehouses are welcome to call and schedule a date if you’d like to cook this season.

When we look for volunteers, it doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. We do have to limit our volunteer pool to firefighters, retired firefighters, their family and friends. We guarantee we can keep you busy, just let us know what kind of work you like to do. If you can give us a few hours in the morning and then take off after lunch and before traffic, that’s great. If you can put in one day a week or one day a season, it’s all good.

Before I sign off I’d like to acknowledge the help the Toy Program gets year round from a bunch of great volunteers. We meet once a month and these folks have been working hard. There’s a lot of maintenance year round between our warehouse and the firehouse. Graffiti removal, donation pickups, firehouse pick ups, cleaning and everything else that comes up off-season. So thanks to Bill B., Ray C., Mario B., Bill B., Renee C., Ray M., Vince T., Jim D., Danny G., Jim M., Jerry M., Jack M., Ed P., Linda P.,

Lastly, I’d like to say that the Toy Program is always looking for new avenues to explore for continuing donations. In this shaky financial climate, we can only hope that those donors that have been a continual source of support will be able to do so. If anyone has a contact that perhaps would be interested in supporting the Toy Program, please forward our information. We can be reached at (415) 777-0440.

Well, that’s the Toys and how you can be a part of it. The Toy Program will have the 2004 Toy Program Volunteer Kick-Off Lunch on Thursday, November 18. Everyone is invited! Please join us and see what we are about. Thank you for your time in reading this and let’s have a great season.

PS- if there is a crew from a probie class or a firehouse that would be willing to paint the fence around the Toy Program, we can use your help. We’ll supply the sprayer and paint. It would take about four – six people one day to knock this out. ASAP would be great - give us a call…

2004 Upcoming Season
Schedule of Events

Sept. 18 - Giants Toy Program Pin Day
Oct. 27 - Abalone Dive Trip
Nov. 18 - Volunteer Kick-Off Luncheon
Nov. 26 - Annual Toy Program Dance
Party @ Bimbo’s
Dec. 1 - First Day to Distribute Toys
Dec. 23 - Last Day to Distribute Toys


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