plus size polo shirts Falls firefighters help needy during shopping day
The lines snaked through the aisles of the outdoor living department at theWalmart on Military Road early Tuesday morning.
But no one was complaining about the wait.
More than 200 local families were there, waiting for the opportunity to buy warm, winter clothing for their children with vouchers from the Falls Firefighters Christmas Toy Fund. For the first time ever, a reporter and photographer were invited to join and observe the Aid to Needy Children Shopping Day experience.
“I feel lucky to be a part of this,” said Dawn Jelen, the Aid to Needy Children Committee chair. “I feel like I’m so lucky to be here.”
The wife of Falls Firefighter Tom Jelen, Dawn has been helping with the low key program for a decade, and has chaired the organizing committee for the last four years. She said this year’s shopping day may be the best yet.
“It’s been an amazing year as far as fundraising,” she said. “If all goes well, we may even be able to add some more families in the next few days.”
If Jelen felt lucky to be handing out the clothing vouchers, the recipients couldn’t have been happier to have the chance to be able to protect their children from the cold of winter.
“I think it’s really great that they’re helping us out,” said Jewelry Drake, a mom who signed up for the Toy Fund’s help for the first time this year. “I think it’s wonderful they can provide toys and clothing.”
Drake said her kids will be thrilled to find new clothes under their Christmas tree.
“I told them I was getting them clothes and they said, ‘Yay!’,” Drake said. “They’re 4 and 6 years old and they love clothes.”
As the crowds of shoppers in the children’s clothing departments of the store began to swell, Drake said, as a parent,
while holiday toys are nice, warm clothing is even more important to her.
“I was so happy to find out about this program,” Drake said.
Janelle Gregg, a single, unemployed mom of two boys, was also reaping Toy Fund benefits for the first time this year. She said she learned about the fund through the Falls School District.
“It’s very helpful to get the stuff they need,” Gregg said. “I can’t really afford (new, warm clothes).”
She said her 3 year old was hopeful his mom would come home with something branded with Thomas the Tank Engine or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Watching the families head out to shop, Jelen said, could almost move her to tears of joy.
“I know that just that extra pair of socks or a hat and gloves or a warm jacket, that these families can’t afford makes such a difference,” she said. “And I feel like I’m the lucky one (to have helped).”
Falls Fire Capt. John Castellani, the Toy Fund chair, also watched as the families moved out to shop and marveled again at the difference a year has made for the fund.
“To this community, we just say, ‘thanks,'” Castellani said. “The desperation and demand (for help) is so high, and because of the bounce back (in fundraising this year),
we’ve gone from taking fewer applications (for assistance) to taking more applications.