INDIAN LAND — The Pleasant Valley Fire Departments 21st annual Christmas Project transcended holiday cheer and goodwill by helping to restore hope for Panhandle families that suffered tough financial times in 2012.
The staff of 27 volunteer fire department personnel, along with the support of their families and other volunteers, delivered an assortment of Christmas gifts and food to 23 households in the Pleasant Valley Fire District and elsewhere in the Indian Land Panhandle.
Fire department officials coordinated their efforts with local churches and schools. As he stood in a room bedecked by boxes of presents received through church donations, Capt. Keith Wilson detailed the selection process the fire department goes through each year.
The names come from the Indian Land Elementary School, he said. They help us out each year, so we contacted the families and asked them what they need. We had 116 replies and whittled that down to families who really needed help [the most].
In a cascade of sirens and the grand entrance of a fire truck sleigh, Santa arrived at each home to greet children while the team unloaded vehicles to make the holiday deliveries. They even checked smoke alarms, replacing them with new devices as needed.
Wendy Caskey, who has four children under the age of 13 to provide for, had worried that she and her husband might not be able to afford presents for their kids this Christmas.
This was really a big lift off of our shoulders, she said. Theyre wonderful people and I dont know how to thank them enough for doing this. Its a great thing that they do for people, she said.
Wilson said the Pleasant Valley Fire Departments primary goal is to ensure safety and provide help to local residents, but during the holidays they strive even further by embracing the yuletide spirit.
This is their community fire department, we help each other out. This is just a different time to help them out. It gives them hope, this is their hope thats what Christmas is all about, he said.
Amanda Therells children swarmed to greet Santa in their front yard. During the visit, she held one of her youngsters close, fighting back tears as she spoke.
People that are having hard luck or hard times, they really need stuff like this my heart cries, it just cries with happiness, to see them jump for joy and the smiles on their face, Therell said. Theyre gonna have a great Christmas now because of these people.
On a day when receiving gifts was experienced by so many in such a profound way, the very same could be said for those who gave.
Eddie Griffin has volunteered to don the Santa suit for several years now, saying theres nothing comparable to the experience.
I love it, seeing the kids faces light up, he said.
When you walk in the room and they see all the presents and the parents, to see the relief on their faces when they get the boxes of food and stuff, its just amazing.