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Firefighters pass boot to help needy

December 6, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

The Western Reserve Joint Fire District held its annual boot drive on Friday, Nov. 29 as the entire department worked the five-point intersection at U.S. 224 and Ohio 170 in the village to raise funds for the "Christmas at Our House" program.

The Christmas at Our House program began 14 years ago when office staff member Diane Ingold and a firefighter were talking.

"We agreed we needed to come up with some program to help our local families who were in need," Ingold said.

The program was formed and continues to be a solid one when it comes to ensuring no child goes without at Christmas.

The program begins with the boot collection. On Thanksgiving weekend, every firefighter in the district volunteers some time to stand at the intersection with a fireman's boot. Motorists donate change and bills as they await the light to change. The funds collected are then counted and the budget is set to help Poland families who are in need.

"We get names from schools and churches," said Lt. J.R. Warren, who helps oversee the program.

Only Warren and one other person at the WRJFD know who the families are.

Once the families are verified, the money collected is divided and the WRJFD sets up a family fun day at the Main Station in the village. All the firefighters and their families come in for the event and teams are set up to do the shopping for one of the selected families. Warren said they won't get names of the family or where they live. The teams only the number of people in the family and the ages of the children.

"The next step is heading out to do the Christmas shopping for the families," Warren said. "We run a competition to see who can get the most bang for their buck."

Each team is given a share of the collected money, but some may speak with a store owner and get discounts, or even donations, to stretch the actual money. Warren said it is fun for firefighters and their families to see what they can come up with.

Besides gifts for the children, the firefighter-shoppers also try to provide personal care items for the adults. There have also been cases where gift cards for the electric company have been provided.

On top of the gifts, two companies have stepped up to help provide a Christmas dinner. Warren said the Tamarkin Company donates turkeys every year for the families. The New Castle Shop-n-Save donates the rest of the meal and fixings.

When the firefighters return from their shopping spree, the gifts are wrapped and placed on a table marked for family one, family two, etc. Warren then takes the gifts and the food to each family.

"They are often very surprised and thankful," Warren said.

He said they are never told who nominated them and there are no questions asked. They simply are given the gifts and wished a Merry Christmas.

Warren did add that all the families helped are from Poland Village or Township.

As for the amount raised this year, Warren said he has no idea as it is still being counted. He did state that every penny will be used for the gifts and food.

"We don't carry anything over. We use it all," he said. "We really want to thank all our residents and neighbors passing through for taking good care of us."

He added that some people send in donations on top of the boot collection and the more the department receives, the more families they can help at Christmas.



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