(Editor's note: This story was contributed to WTVC by Mitch Talley, Whitfield County Director of Communications.)
With the nation still battling the pandemic, Santa no doubt could use a little extra help this year.
Thanks to the generosity of local residents during the Boot Drive back in October, the Whitfield County Fire Department was able to do its part to make Christmas brighter for underprivileged youngsters.
Firefighters and the Dalton Shriners collected a record-setting $31,324 during their annual joint effort at intersections around the county on Oct. 3, and about $10,000 of that was used for the fifth annual Santa in Uniform program that provided gifts for 29 children this year.
With the help of volunteers from the Sheriff’s Office, 911, and Public Defender’s Office, firefighters picked out about $250 worth of clothing and toys at the Walnut Avenue Walmart Dec. 16 for each of the youngsters, who included two students from each of the county’s 13 elementary schools and three of their siblings.
The Boot Drive also provided enough funds to buy each family a fruit basket and a $100 Kroger gift card.
The pandemic forced officials to forego the usual party at the fire department’s training building where the gifts are handed out. Instead, on Dec. 17, the youngsters had their picture made with Santa, picked up their presents (including a bicycle donated by the Shriners), and received a pizza to take home for supper.
“We appreciate the overwhelming generosity of the motorists who donated to our Boot Drive,” Fire Chief Ed O’Brien said. “Their kindness allowed us to make the holiday season brighter for 29 youngsters.”