Darlington Fire and Police “Toys for the Community” program brings Christmas joy to local families
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dozens of Darlington families received a little Santa Claus-style help from local emergency responders on the morning of December 23, right before Christmas Eve. Each year, members of the City of Darlington Fire and Police Departments transform the First Baptist Church gym into a toy depot where games, bikes, and dolls are given to local children in need.
“We do this every year, going on about twenty-nine years now, where we give toys to the community,” said Chuck Kelly of the Darlington Fire Department. “This year, we’re probably in the neighborhood of about thirty-six families, which is about eighty-five or ninety kids.”
This annual toy donation program takes applications through November from area families who may be experiencing financial difficulties. Drive organizers review applications and determine whether the family qualifies for help, but Kelly says it’s very rare for anyone to be turned down.
The DFD did try something new this year to fund the Toy Drive. Spearheaded by the department’s Firefighter of the Year, Perry Kelly, the DFD staged a “Taste of Christmas” event, which recruited over 30 cooks and raised about $2,300 to help purchase toys for children in need.
“We used to do a boot drive, but it’s getting to be where that’s unsafe, so we’re finding other ways to do it besides standing out on the streets and getting donations,” Kelly said. “We also sent out letters to local businesses asking for donations, and this year we’ve done great.”
Kelly estimated that the combined efforts brought in over $8,000 for the Toy Drive. A little of that is set aside as seed money to start next year’s Toy Drive fundraising, but about $7,800 went directly into purchasing toys, clothes, and needed items for kids ranging from babies to age 12.
“We don’t pay light bills or anything like that, but if the family says that the child needs clothes, we will get them clothes. Or if they ask for food instead, we will get them food. But we are mostly doing toys,” said Kelly.