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Fire Department, Legion Drive Helps Provide Happy Holidays
Volunteers Casey Den Ouden, in Santa hat, and Corey Dick, at right, hand off another bag of gifts to a local family as part of Saturdays Escalon Fire Department toy giveaway, hosted in conjunction with the Escalon American Legion Post and supported by many businesses and community residents. Marg Jackson/The Times

Escalon Fire Department, in cooperation with the Escalon American Legion Post, concluded a successful 2017 toy drive by distributing gifts for nearly 100 local youngsters on Saturday.

The goal was to help provide a happy holiday for those who might not otherwise have too many gifts under the family tree on Christmas morning.

“We had 38 families sign up, accounting for 94 children,” said Escalon Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro, who coordinates the effort.

Collection boxes were set up in multiple locations around the community, from businesses to schools, and donations were provided for all ages, from birth up to early teens.

The toys were collected and then sorted by age and whether they were for a boy or girl, with the piles of toys ready to be bagged up and distributed to the families that had signed up in advance. Distribution day was Saturday, Dec. 23, with the first recipients picking up their gift bags around 9 a.m.

By age, the breakdown was: Infant boys two recipients, infant girls two recipients; boys 1- to 3-years-old, six recipients and girls 1- to 3-years-old, seven recipients. For boys ages 4 to 6, there were 10 recipients, girls ages 4 to 6, nine. There were 15 signed up in the boys 7- to 10-year-old category, 16 girls in the 7- to 10 age group. For boys ages 11 to 13, there were eight registered and there were 10 registered in the girls 11 to 13 age group. The oldest group, 14-plus, saw three boy recipients and six girl recipients.

“The donations came in about normal,” Pinheiro said of getting enough toys to fill the gift bags for all children. “Corey Dick and Eckert Cold Storage were on top of things, as usual.”

Dick, who has volunteered with the effort for the last several years, said she just enjoys being part of it and is glad that her workplace, Eckert, has a collection box every year.

“I’ve probably done it eight or 10 years now,” Dick said. “It’s great to see us giving back to the community.”

Her daughter Kimberly, 16, a high school junior, joined in this year and helped Pinheiro check the names off the list once the pre-registered family had come in and received their bags of gifts for their children.

“It’s all about giving back,” mom Corey said, smiling as she handed off a bag full of items for a youngster.

Pinheiro said they always get volunteers form the fire department, the Legion Post, the police department and often from the community itself to help make the toy distribution go off smoothly.

Boxes of stuffed animals were available as well, with parents able to pick up a new furry friend for each child to go along with their gift bag.

Along with Pinheiro, those working at the event include Legion Post 263 members Al Bellinger, Casey Den Ouden, Angelo Blanco, Vince Giovaniello, Don Forest, Darrell Voortman, Johan Bartelink, and Curtis Vaughn; Gustavo Flores of the Escalon Police Department, Corey and Kimberly Dick and fire department members Jennifer Cannon and Rigo Fonseca.