For more than two decades, the Alameda County Fire Department, in conjunction with the Alameda County Fire Fighters Association, has been answering emergency calls each holiday season from local charities in need of toys for children who otherwise might have none.
Each year, the firefighters spread holiday cheer to children and families in need in Union City, Newark, San Leandro, Dublin, San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland, Castro Valley and unincorporated Livermore.
"Fortunately the community has been wonderful in donating toys to us each year," said ACFD spokesperson, Aisha Knowles, "but regretfully the request for gifts from the local non-profit organizations with whom we partner continues to grow."
Some of the groups that request toys from the firefighters, who then distribute them to children in need in the community, are places like the Neighborhood Church of Castro Valley and the International Christian Center in San Leandro which distributes 500 toys each year at a dinner for homeless families.
According to Knowles, the firefighters have, in many ways, become the place of last resort that charities turn to when they haven't been able to collect enough toys for their client families on their own.
"We often get called upon when they are in crisis and cannot meet their goal," she said.
When the firefighters themselves have not collected enough toys or contributions from the community, they then reach into their own pockets to further plug the gap and provide as many toys as possible.
"The firefighters themselves are very generous each year," Knowles said. Because donations from the public sometimes arrive very close to the holiday, Knowles said it is hard to know at any given time how big the demand for toys will be and how many they will actually receive.
Besides the traditional toys someone might purchase for a young child, Knowles said they also need items for "tweens" between ages 11 and 13 and teenagers.
"Gift cards to places like Target, Walmart, Kohl's, and Old Navy are much appreciated by that age group as well as gift certificates for movies," she said. Other items older children might enjoy, she said, are sporting equipment, skate boards and art supplies.
New and unwrapped toys, gift cards and monetary donations can be dropped off to any Alameda County Fire Department fire station through Dec. 24.
Checks can be made out to the Alameda County Fire Fighters Association and mailed to the ACFD Administrative Office at 835 E. 14th Street, Suite 200, San Leandro.
Here are some drop off stations in the community:
- : 39039 Cherry Street, Newark
- : 7550 Thornton Avenue, Newark
- : 35775 Ruschin Drive, Newark
- : 35000 Eastin Court, Union City
- : 33555 Central Avenue, Union City
- : 31600 Alvarado Boulevard, Union City
- : 33942 7th Street, Union City