With trucks covered in Christmas lights, sirens blaring and Santa on board, fire fighters led by Lt. Garvin “Chip” Jones pulled up to five different homes to deliver gifts, food and gift certificates to brighten the holiday for five single parents and their families last Sunday. The five families were chosen by the Windham Food Pantry and the fire department collected around 250 gifts from area businesses to help with the Santa Run.
The weather cooperated as three trucks, close to 50 people and one Santa delivered presents from one end of Windham to the other.
“It went really well,” said Jones. Each family received a box filled with food, an envelope of gift cards from area businesses to use for themselves or their kids, and gifts already wrapped to go under the tree.
“The first family was just blown away. They had even made cookies for Santa,” Jones said. Although the parent knew they were getting a visit, they didn’t realize until the trucks arrived how elaborate it would be. “The trucks looked gorgeous. They didn’t think it was going to be this extravagent,” he added. “The kids were in awe of Santa.”
The second and third families were equally blown away. “They couldn’t believe the amount of stuff coming into their house,” Jones said.
Getting ready for the Sunday night event took a full month of planning and lots of help from the community. Saturday night two dozen people wrapped gifts. On Sunday, dozens of people including students who live and work in the fire stations, decorated Haz Mat 2, Engine 5 and the Haz Mat Rehab Bus, which took them many hours. There were around 4,000 lights on Engine 5 and between 5,000 and 6,000 lights on the Haz Mat trucks.
Gifts were donated by employees at Dominos and waitstaff at Buck’s Naked BBQ. Between 35 and 40 businesses donated as well. Cash donations were turned into gift certificates for local businesses like Renys, Marshalls and restaurants in town. Even Sunday morning, items were trickling in to be delivered that night.
“It’s a great time,” said Jones, who had been doing something like this since he lived in New Jersey. In Maine he’s been in charge of the Santa Run for six years. “Every year I build on it. We started with two families, then three and four families. This year we did five families,” he said.
One parent told Jones that she bought her daughter a jacket around Thanksgiving and that was all she was getting for Christmas. He was glad that wasn’t going to happen now.
“Usually they’re single parents with one or two kids who work one or two jobs and barely are keeping the heat and lights on,” Jones said. “It’s just a big gratification. That’s why I keep on doing it.”
Jones is thankful for all the support the Santa Run gets from the community, especially the following businesses: Hannaford, Marshalls, Man Cave Hair Lounge, Smitty's Cinema, Reny's, Friendly's, Bucks Naked BBQ, The Nail Spa, Cleaning Genies, Domino's, Applebee's, Pizza Hut, Benny's Barbershop, Windham Jewelers, Auto Zone, Bull Moose, U.S. Cellular, Shaw's, Pet Life, Advanced Auto, DQ, Rustler's Steakhouse, G & K Motors, Hall Implement, Little Caesars, Windham Primary School, Danielle's Sebago Café, Mr. Bagels, McDonald's and Hair Gone Wild. Special thanks to Dena's Lobsterhouse, comedian Crazy Jake and Atienza & Chebuske Dentistry as well as the private donations dropped off by the public, members and families of the Windham Fire/Rescue and Gorham/Windham Professional Fire Fighters Association and Santa Claus.