Ever since the 1980s, members of Jersey City (NJ) Engine Co. 10 and Ladder Co. 12 on Halladay Street have collected toys for local underprivileged children and distributed them so city kids could have a Christmas. The tradition has carried on as members retired and younger guys took over. For the past 27-years, Captain Mark Lee of Engine Co. 10 led the Jersey City Fire Department Christmas Drive. He was a friendly, selfless man who enjoyed every bit of Christmas and his job helping others.
His Christmas duties live on with the members of the fire department and Lee’s family. Lee’s son, Mark Jr., is a member of 12 Truck and he and his sisters Jennifer and Christina have joined in on the holiday duties. Captain Lee’s wife, Cheryl, appears to have taken over her husband’s captain’s bars and she is a new and strong force behind making the toy collection bigger and better.
Members of the fire department contribute money and toys for the drive which started by passing out gifts to about 100 children when the drive started years ago. Today, 3,200 children will benefit from the firefighters and the Lee family’s hard work.
On the morning of December 11, a film crew showed up at the firehouse to interview firefighters and the Lee family to cover this story of generosity for the Meredith Vieira Show. The Lees and firefighters were interviewed on the second floor of the firehouse as Meredith Vieira’s Christmas Elves quickly wrapped up boxes and placed toys on the apparatus floor, along with Christmas decorations. The Lees were in for a surprise.
When they came downstairs, the family was greeted by on duty, off duty, and retired firefighters lined up along with toys donated by HASBRO. The giving, however, was not over. Alisha Cowan-Vieira, field producer for the show, presented Mrs. Lee with a HASBRO $20,000 voucher for the Firehouse Toy Drive. To say the family was shocked would be an understatement. They broke out in joyful tears, and now there is more shopping to do!
Firefighters said that Mark wouldn’t like all the fuss, but he would have loved the giving spirit and the many happy faces on city kids for Christmas.
A family that Captain Lee made sure had gifts on Christmas came across the street from their home with a giant “Thank You” card made by their children.
“The Lee family thinks beyond themselves,” said Captain Ken Simone of Ladder Co. 12. “He (Lee) was a small guy, but he was a giant.”
The interview is scheduled to run on the Meredith Vieira Show on December 16, 2 p.m. Eastern time, on NBC, or check your local listings.
The work started by members of the Halladay Street firehouse, Group “C,” in the 1980s, and Captain Lee’s generosity will live on so that others may enjoy as Merry Christmas.
See more images from this event HERE.
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