Firemen Contribute Christmas Cheer To Poor Kiddies of a New York Village

Firemen Contribute Christmas Cheer To Poor Kiddies of a New York Village

Reconstructed Toys, Dolls, Etc., on Display in Peekskill, N. Y., Store, Before Distribution to Poor Children of Village

THE paid drivers of the Peekskill, N. Y., Fire Department, fourteen in number, started to repair and recondition toys for needy children in the Christmas season of 1934, and, as Chairman, I want to say that we started something that has seemed almost a miracle. I am writing to FIRE ENGINEERING, for the reason that, if the experience we have had will be of help to some other departments, we will be greatly pleased.

We started out with the idea of getting a couple of hundred toys together to help a local woman in her yearly Christmas party. In order to start the matter, we persuaded the two local newspapers to give their cooperation by printing any write-ups we might give them. On October 1, 1934, our first write-up appeared, with a follow-up each day, asking for donations of old toys, etc. It took about one week or ten days before any results came and they then started to come in.

The Work Gains Impetus

We began to realize the many different things we would need. One company—the Patrol Emergency— had been given permission to start the work. About the 25th of October, last year, we obtained permission to use a vacant store, in which to place the toys and through the newspapers we invited the public to come to each fire house, where they could see the painting being done. Two men made all the repairs to the toys and then took them to the various fire houses for painting. We soon outgrew the store and fortunately the owner happened to have a large vacant store in the heart of the town, where we could display the reconditioned toys to the public.

About this time we submitted the matter to the local theatres and they had “trailers”—short films—made up, asking the public to “Help the Firemen Help the Needy Children.” Instructions were given as to where to telephone, etc. We also contacted every church and school and sent letters to every organization in our village of 14,000 population. We made, besides, a store to store canvass for paints, brushes, screws and holts, electric drills, electric spray gun, and so on.

Citizens’ Home Workshop Club Helps

The idea caught the merchants and the public like a fever—the phone was kept busy and the drivers worked until late in the night to keep up with the toys we received. We asked for cash donations, so that we could purchase wigs and similar articles, which we could not have donated. We received $73.50 in cash and spent al>out $30. The manager of the local electric light company paid for the electricity used in the store. One member of the fire company repaired the dolls and another did the welding. In the village there is a group of citizens who have a “Home Workshop Club,” and they volunteered to make repairs on all woodwork we might have. We also put a special plea in the newspapers for lumber waste pieces, odds and ends, good boxes, etc., to supply the club with materials. We persuaded the Board of Education to grant permission to use the school workshop, with all modern carpentry machines, two nights a week, with the Manual Training Teacher in charge, and repairs were made to all sleds, bassinets, desks, wagons, blackboards, etc. Between repairs, the members of the club made about seventy-five new toys, such as ironing boards, small carts, little clowns, and so on.

Community Committee Helps Distribute Toys

Practically every line of trade was asked to help. The laundries washed and ironed dolls clothes. Printers, electricians, hardware stores, and toy stores made large contributions. The more toys we put in the windows with large signs, the more came in. We realized that we had undertaken a much larger job than we expected, and so had to work harder to put it over. We had outgrown our original idea, and at a meeting of the five drivers it was decided to ask a representative front every organization in the village—such as charity workers, churches, lodges, and schools—to send a delegate to form a Community Committee to distribute the toys. We had received the donations from the people in the village and decided by this method to give them back to the village. We had thirty different organizations represented. Different sub-committees were appointed, to get the names of all needy children, such as those whose fathers were only working two or three days a week; a transportation sub-committee, to deliver the toys, and one important division to pick out the toys for the children. The members of these sub-committees were well chosen, as they consisted of people who headed the Relief Workers Office, Welfare Station, Salvation Army, Associated Charities, Gospel Guards and the Elks—men and women who dealt with needy children every day.

Ladies Offer to Dress Dolls

After the dolls had been repaired, we received an offer from the Ladies’ Aid of the First Methodist Episcopal Church to dress all of them. We then canvassed some dress factories and received many small pieces of new dress goods to give the ladies for this purpose. One company made all the repairs, and then delivered the toys to the other fire houses, picking them up when completed to put on display. One theatre had a new display each week in its lobby, so that the public could see the work done.

Donations from Manufacturers

We had some donations from two stores that were incomplete, so wrote the manufacturer and received the missing parts without charge and one company sent thirty-two complete toys from their factory. Practically everything, no matter in what condition, was repaired and very little was discarded.

Space will not permit the listing of all of our experiences. As the work neared the finish, we set up in the store twenty-five large banquet tables and roped off the center of the floor, filling the tables and placing the scooters, sleds and other large items on the floor. This made a wonderful exhibit, showing the people and merchants what we had done with what had been given us.

Tofal of 3,500 Toys in Two Months

The grand total of toys prepared was 3,500 in two months. Up to Tuesday, December 11, 1934, we had 442 families listed, with an average of three children to each, or something over 1,300 children in all. The toys all looked so much like new, that the public was surprised.

We had about 12 or 15 trucks donated for use in distributing the toys on Sunday. December 23, and had two or three men on each truck. We zoned the village, so that each truck would have an average of 50 stops, and the delivery occupied in all about three or four hours.

We designated the work as that of a “Christmas Cheer Committee,” rather than considering it charity, because the majority of the families to whom the gifts were sent did not even know that their names were on our lists, but, through the Relief Workers’ projects, we obtained a complete check on all deserving cases.

The entire village was well pleased with the job we started, but which could not have been successfully carried out without the cooperation of the public, the merchants, the churches, schools and individuals who served on committees. It has been a wonderful example of what community cooperation can accomplish, when all work for a common cause, especially where children are concerned. We were proud to be associated with such splendid achievement.

Hope fo Repeat Successful Campaign This Year

We are hoping to follow out the same plan this year. We have received donations of some 40 gallons of enamel from paint manufacturers, contributions of toys are coming in from many quarters, and offers of cooperation have been received, among them from all of the school teachers, who have volunteered to contribute this year. So that things look bright for a repetition of the success of our “Christmas Cheer Committee.”

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