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franklin county times

Helping Santa project now underway

For the fourth straight year, all the departments in the city of Russellville are pitching in to give Santa a hand in making this year’s Christmas a memorable one for the children in the area through the annual Helping Santa program.

The purpose of the Helping Santa program is to make sure local children have something to wake up to on Christmas morning, no matter what their circumstances may be.

Last year alone, over 300 families and nearly 1,000 children received presents through Helping Santa.

Russellville Fire Department Capt. Randy Seal is coordinating the program and said it’s one of the most rewarding things he could think of to do.

“To be able to reach out to over 900 kids that probably wouldn’t have had a Christmas otherwise is a great thing,” Seal said. “It’s a blessing to be part of something that can bring joy to so many people.”

In years past, the program was mainly open to children living within the city limits of Russellville since the program is sponsored by the city’s departments and children outside the city limits were allowed to participate as toys were available.

This year, the first pick-up day will still be set aside for Russellville residents, but they’ve added a pick-up day for tornado victims, including tornado victims in Phil Campbell, East Franklin and Hackleburg.

“For these people affected by the tornado, buying toys for Christmas is probably close to the bottom of the list of needs for someone who lost everything they had,” Seal said. “We want them to be able to have a good Christmas this year just like everyone else.”

Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the economy plays an even bigger role now in family’s not being able to afford gifts for their children at Christmas but he wants to make sure they reach every child that can be reached in the area.

“When we became firefighters, we made a commitment to serve our community and this is just one more way we can do that,” he said.

He also said that on the pick-up days for the toys, he hopes the parents will come on their own without their children so the presents can be a surprise.

“The economy is bad right now and everyone is struggling,” Mansell said. “We don’t want any recognition for what we’re doing. We want the parents to pick up the presents and them give them out as they see fit for their family.”

For those who are in need this year and would like for their children to be able to receive gifts through the Helping Santa program, packets are now available at the Russellville Fire Department or the Russellville Police Department.

Anyone wishing to participate in the program must fill out the forms in the packet completely and have the following documentation to be eligible to receive gifts: name and address of parent or guardian; proof of residency (utility bill); picture ID of parent or guardian or of person allowed to pick up gifts; proof of each child’s age (COPIES of birth certificate, Medicaid card, etc.); proof of FEMA assistance (for tornado victims only).

Packets and documentation must be turned in no later than Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. to either the fire department or the police department.

Pick-up days for gifts will be Dec. 19 for those living inside the city limits of Russellville, Dec. 20 for tornado victims, and Dec. 21 for those living in the county but outside the city limits.

Anyone who would like to make donations of new or slightly used toys to be distributed through the helping Santa program can drop the toys off in the Helping Santa boxes located at the following businesses and locations: Russellville City Hall, Ralph C. Bishop Community Center, Chucky Mullins Center, Russellville Police Department, Russellville Fire Department Stations 1 and 2, Russellville Street Department, Dependable True Value, Country Cottage Assisted Living, Hibbetts Sporting Goods, Fred’s, Five Star Pizza, Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, Alabama Central Credit Union, First Metro Bank, Valley State Bank, Community Spirit Bank, CB&S Bank, Valley Credit Union, Trikes Unlimited, Jack’s Restaurant, Wal-Mart, O’Riley Auto Parts, Peebles, CVS, Drug Shop, Family Pharmacy and Hometown Pharmacy.

Monetary donations can be made at any of the banks listed.

“We’ve had great support for this program from the community in the past and we hope the community will continue to support this worthy cause,” Mansell said.

For questions or for further information, contact the RFD at 256-332-8761 or 256-332-8711 or the RPD’s Sgt. Linda Michaels at 256-332-2230.





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