A total of 70 families, representing some 169 children from birth up to the age of 17, were served through the Escalon Fire Department’s annual holiday toy distribution, hosted at the Coley Avenue firehouse on Friday, Dec. 23.
A number of fire department personnel, Escalon American Legion members, Escalon Police Department volunteers and community residents joined forces to help the distribution run smoothly.
Despite a steady rain, the crowd was cheerful and appreciative. Coordinator Terry Pinheiro said though the distribution was originally scheduled to start at 10 a.m., they opened the doors early, as the bags were ready and many people were waiting in the rain.
“This was higher than last year by about 15 families,” Pinheiro said of the need for toys and gifts this year.
Some large items were donated, including a few bicycles, and there was a wide variety of gifts for those in need. Items were broken down by age, with appropriate gifts given for both boys and girls.
Categories and the number of bags provided were: Infant girl 5, infant boy 3; Girls 1 to 3-years-old, 17, boys, 19; Girls 4 to 6, 14, boys 24; Girls 7 to 10, 31, boys 24; Girls 11 to 13, 20, boys 15; Girls 14 to 17, 12, boys 13.
Families had to sign up in advance. Volunteers were given the list of ages of children in the family and whether they were a boy or a girl and then set out to fill the order.
Fire Department representatives included Terry Pinheiro, Ryan Burr, David Velasco, Connor Coker, and Jennifer Cannon; American Legion representatives were Al Bellinger, Jack O’Bayley, Don Forest, Johan Bartelink, Vince Giovaniello and Ed Ross, along with O’Bayley’s grandchildren Paige Henderson, Hannah Swisher and Patrick Swisher; Escalon Police Department volunteer Patty Wood and Corey Dick from Eckert Cold Storage. Also on hand were community volunteers Rob and Karen Cannon.
“I wanted to do it, it’s a good thing,” said 12-year-old Paige Henderson, getting ready to deliver a couple of bags of toys.
“We all wanted to,” added cousin Hannah Swisher, also 12. “There are lots of families that don’t have as much.”
Older brother Patrick Swisher said helping bag up and distribute the toys was a good way to spend the morning.
“I’m enjoying seeing the smiles on their faces when they walk out with the presents,” he said.
Police Department volunteer Patty Wood agreed.
“I’m enjoying it, and it’s good the community comes together to do this,” she said.