Friday, December 26, 2014

Families get surprise visit from Santa and the Windham Fire Department - By Michelle Libby

Windham firefighters and their families banded together this year to surprise four families from Windham who needed a little help this year. Seventeen or so people gathered to decorate the fire trucks with colored lights and garlands before heading out of the station. Kids, wives and friends of the fire department all gather to spread the joy.
“This was the first year we did four families. We usually do one or two,” said Lt. Chip Jones, who organized the donations. 

Windham social services picked the four families from their wish list forms. Then the fire department went shopping, buying everything on the wish list and then above and beyond that, said Jones.
“Families were so appreciative of what they received. Kids were so excited and some got a ride in the fire truck,” said photographer Jennifer Wescott. 

The department didn’t buy as much food as they have in the past, but area restaurants and businesses donated gift certificates for services like oil changes, and extravagances like nail treatments, haircuts, massages and movie tickets. 

“The generosity of this town is amazing,” said Jones. The fire department members, friends and supporters raised money and pooled it together to buy the gifts.  

“We fulfilled every wish those families wanted and more,” Jones said. One family let their children open one gift each, then saved the rest for Christmas. The other families told the children to wait for Santa to come and see the presents under the tree, Jones said. “The kids were just thrilled.” 

All of the families were single moms and the relief they felt was palpable, said Jones. Jones started organizing the donations a few years ago. He started gearing up about mid-November. He went to businesses to ask for donations. “I’m so excited to see this happen, and put a smile on people’s faces,” Jones said. He added that this was a great year for donations. “This is truly a special way to do this. The economy is a little better this year and people want to be a part of it. Everyone sees so much bad in the world, just to have them turn around with a smile on their face…” said Jones. “These four families are going to have one hell of a Christmas,” he said with a laugh. “This is something they are going to remember for months and years to come.” 

Capt. Ken Thorpe helped Santa out Saturday night.  

The fire department is open for visits. Jones encourages people to bring their children to see the fire trucks and talk to the personnel.

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