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Toy Distribution Brightens Holidays For 100-Plus Kids
toy crew
Firefighters, police and American Legion members, along with Fire Board member Laura Catrina and some community volunteers helped keep the holiday toy distribution flowing smoothly on Dec. 22. Marg Jackson/The Times

A total of 124 youngsters within the boundaries of the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District had a very Merry Christmas, courtesy of a local toy drive.

The Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 and the Escalon Fire Department combine to collect toys at a number of locations around the city for a couple of weeks in December, culminating with the distribution day before Christmas.

This year, the distribution was on Wednesday, Dec. 22 and volunteers convened at the Coley Avenue firehouse about 7:30 a.m. to sort through the toys and get them into the proper age group to fill the ‘orders’ of toys. Families had to sign up in advance for the distribution, providing ages of children and whether they were a boy or girl.

The 2021 final count saw 69 girls and 55 boys in need of toys and firefighter Ryan Burr said they added one more boy to the list; a youngster whose family home in a nearby community was destroyed by fire in the past couple of weeks. Escalon Fire Department ‘adopted’ the boy for the holiday, said Burr, making sure he got some presents.

For the girls, the largest age group need was in the 10- to 12-year-old group, with 18 girls signed up. For the boys, the highest total was 16, in the seven- to nine-year-old category.

Other totals for the girls were: infant, two; one to three years, eight; four to six years, 13; seven to nine years, 13; 13 to 15 years, 11; and 16-plus years old, four.

For the boys, final totals were: infant, one; one to three years old, 10; four to six, eight; 10 to 12, nine; 13 to 15, eight; and 16-plus, three.

The collection of toys brings in new, unwrapped gifts, everything from race tracks to basketballs, dolls to books, games and puzzles. Plenty of stuffed animals donated also allow the crews working the distribution to include a stuffed animal for each child. There were also donations of several bicycles and scooters that benefited local youngsters.

Burr served as the primary coordinator for the distribution, while Battalion Chief Joe Pelot was also on duty and assisted. Several firefighters were there, some representatives of the Escalon Police Department including Sgt. Gustavo Flores and officer Andy Halvorson; Legion members on hand included Al Bellinger, Casey den Ouden and Vince Giovaniello; Escalon Fire Board member Laura Catrina helped out, as did some community volunteers representing Starbucks and Escalon volunteer and reserve firefighters coming in to assist.

After a couple of hours of sorting and bagging the toys, the drive through distribution started, a line of vehicles pulling through the parking lot behind the firehouse to receive the toys. The distribution began at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22 so all the gifts were delivered in time for the holidays.

Firefighter Kaden Christensen looks over the donated bicycles as he gets ready to deliver one during the Escalon Fire Department-Escalon American Legion toy distribution hosted on Dec. 22. Marg Jackson/The Times
Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post member Vince Giovaniello is all smiles as he carries a couple of bags of toys through the firehouse bay on the way to present them to a family driving through the Wednesday morning distribution. Marg Jackson/The Times