Toys and gifts for over 150 youngsters were distributed in a festive pre-holiday event on Wednesday at the Escalon firehouse on Coley Avenue.
The annual toy giveaway is a joint effort of the Escalon Fire Department, the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 and the Escalon Lions Club. This year, the local Les Schwab Tires in Escalon also joined the effort in a big way.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro said the goal is to keep toys collected locally within the local area and this year 58 families signed up, accounting for 154 children, infants to teens.
“We just wanted to help the community out,” Les Schwab Store Manager Tony Chadwick said of hosting one of the collection boxes and then volunteering at the event. “I think, for the first year, we did very well.”
Also on hand for the distribution were representatives from the Escalon Police Department and the former District 6 Dairy Princess, Sarah Weststeyn of Farmington, who provided cheese samples to families while they waited for their ‘orders’ to be filled.
Families signed up in advance and, when arriving at the firehouse on Dec. 19, provided their name and the list with the number and ages of the children. Then volunteers were sent to gather up the pre-sorted gift bags. Children also received a stuffed animal and a candy cane.
Figures show in the 1- to 3-year old group there were 14 boys and 10 girls; 4 to 6, 20 boys and 11 girls; 7 to 10, 23 boys and 28 girls; 11 to 13, 16 boys and 17 girls and in the 13-plus category, 10 boys and five girls.
“I wouldn’t miss this,” added longtime volunteer Corey Dick, representing Eckert Cold Storage, who helps check the families off the list. “This is a holiday tradition.”
Pinheiro said the event ran smoothly, with all the families turning out for the gift bags and being very appreciative of the program, with smiles shared all around.