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Helping Santa Program makes season bright for 170 children

While the Russellville Fire Department hosts the Helping Santa Program every year, this year was marked by even greater success in the department’s ability to give back to the community.

This year, the Helping Santa Program was able to help 170 children; Russellville Fire Department Capt. Randy Seal said the number of families applying has decreased over the past few years.

“You can always tell when the economy is good based on two things: the number of kids on the list and the number of donations,” Seal said.

This year saw extra donations, which allowed the Helping Santa Program to give more to each family.

Seal said this year each family received a big gift, such as a bicycle, large baby doll or remote-control vehicle. He said there have been very few years when the department has been able to do that.

Most of the big toys are donated, with the fire department purchasing a few. Seal said this year he was extra impressed by the community’s willingness to help.

“We had this one man who asked me what we still needed, and I told him if we had six more bicycles, we would have enough for every family to receive a big present,” Seal said. “He went out and bought six bicycles.”

As toys are brought in for donation, members of the fire department divide them up into age and gender categories. Each family who applies receives toys in a bag with the child’s name on it.

Families from inside the city limits picked up toys Wednesday; families inside the county picked up Thursday; and anyone who was late turning in paperwork picked up toys Friday.