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Officials gathering toys at parade

At this year’s annual Russellville Christmas Parade, city leaders are hoping parade-goers leave with more than just candy – they are hoping they will also leave with a sense of pride in knowing they have helped someone in need this Christmas season.

Organizers with the city of Russellville’s annual Helping Santa toy drive said they are planning to collect toys for area children ages newborn to 15 years old during the Russellville Christmas Parade on Thursday, Dec. 4.

In years past, organizers have relied solely on toy donations collected in the Helping Santa toy boxes at different locations throughout the city, but this year they hope those who show up to the annual Christmas parade will help them reach their goal of making sure the children in the area have a happy Christmas this year.

“This year we will have a float in the parade and we will have city leaders who will be walking alongside the float carrying some of the Helping Santa toy donation boxes,” Russellville city councilman Gary Cummings said.

“We are asking that each person that comes to the Christmas parade bring a new or slightly used toy that they can place in these boxes during the parade.

“We think this will be a great opportunity for each person to get in on doing something good and kind for those who are less fortunate this holiday season.

“Get your kids or your grandkids to bring the toys and put them in the boxes and you will be able to teach them a valuable lesson about kindness and helping others.”

Russellville Fire Capt. Randy Seal, who helps organize the drive each year, said they have many local children signed up to receive presents, and they need more donations of toys to make sure each child has presents to wake up to on Christmas morning.

“Any donations of new or slightly used toys or monetary donations will be greatly appreciated,” Seal said.

“We just want to make this a good Christmas for these kids because they deserve it.”

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, but for the past three years, the program has been open to children in the county as well.

The first pick-up day will still be set aside for Russellville residents, the second pick-up day will be for Franklin County residents and the third day will be for anyone else who didn’t fit into one of those categories.

“Even though the city of Russellville sponsors this program every year, we want all the children in our county to have a chance to wake up to something special on Christmas morning,” Seal said.

Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the poor economy is definitely a factor for families when it comes time to buying gifts at Christmas, but he would hate to see a child go without something because of a bad situation they cannot help.

“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.

“No one who is sponsoring this program wants any recognition for what we’re doing,” Mansell said.

“We want the parents to pick up the presents and then give them out as they see fit for their family.”

Pick-up days for gifts will be:

• Dec. 17 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. for those living inside the city limits of Russellville

• Dec. 18 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. for Franklin County residents

• Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. for anyone else not in those two categories or anyone who registered late or missed their assigned pick-up time.

Any donations to benefit the program will need to be received before Dec. 17.

Even though donations will be taken up at the Russellville Christmas Parade, anyone who would like to make donations of new or slightly used toys for children ages newborn to 15 years old can drop the toys off anytime before Dec. 17 in the Helping Santa boxes located at the following businesses and locations: Russellville City Hall,          Auto Zone, Russellville Park and Rec’s Ralph Bishop and Chucky Mullins Centers, Advance Auto Parts, Russellville Police Department, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Russellville Street Department, Dependable True Value, Russellville Fire Dept. Station #1 and #2, Artistic Jewelry, Alabama Central Credit Union, CVS, First Metro Bank, Jack’s Restaurant, Valley Credit Union, Wal-Mart, Community Spirit Bank, Country Cottage Assisted Living, CB&S Bank locations in Russellville, Goody’s, Valley State Bank locations in Russellville, Hibbett’s Sporting Goods, Fred’s Department Store, Dollar General locations in Russellville, Family Pharmacy Group locations in Russellville, and American Health & Fitness.

Monetary donations can be made at any of the banks listed above in order for organizers to purchase additional toys and needed items.

“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,” Seal said.

Mansell added that people and municipalities throughout the county are encouraged to support the Helping Santa program this year since county residents are also able to participate.

“We will welcome any and all donations that will make this program a success this year,” Mansell said.

For questions or for further information, contact Capt. Randy Seal at 256-332-8761.