NEWBURYPORT — For the second year in a row, Newburyport firefighters teamed up with The Salvation Army this past Saturday to bring holiday cheer to local kids. The annual “Fill a Firetruck” toy drive drew support from shoppers at Kmart in the Port Plaza, who were greeted by firefighters and given “wish lists” encouraging them to buy toys for the drive.
“We created the lists based on actual gifts that local kids from low income families have been asking for,” said Lt. Jeffrey Brunelle, commander of The Salvation Army’s Newburyport chapter.
This year’s toy drive received a boost as Lt. Chuck Gallant of the Rye, N.H. Fire Dept contributed several large boxes of toys that were collected by the Seacoast Firefighters Association. “This is what it’s all about,” said Captain Michael Merritt of the Salisbury Fire Department, who was also on on hand to support the effort.
Finishing up just before Saturday night’s snow storm arrived, the crew delivered the toys to The Salvation Army’s Water Street headquarters where youngsters from Newburyport’s Youth Hockey League tackled the task of sorting all of the items in preparation for this Friday’s distribution to families who have signed up for assistance.
The toys collected ranged from several stuffed animals and toy cars to a Wii, Xbox, and a Kindle Fire.
“We continue to be amazed by the generosity of our community,” Brunelle said in a press release. He and his wife, Lt. Meghan Brunelle have been the co-directors of the Newburyport Salvation Army since 2011.
“We have seen the numbers of those seeking assistance more than double in the past two years,” Lt. Meghan Brunelle said. “Every toy donated is one less for us to buy, leaving more funds available to help meet other critical needs.”
In addition to providing toys to children of low-income families, The Salvation Army has several anti-poverty and homelessness prevention programs including rent and utility assistance, an emergency food pantry, and free community meals offered twice each week.
The Salvation Army has nearly 200 Greater Newburyport families signed up for this year’s holiday assistance program and is still taking applications.
The Salvation Army reports that all contributions made to this program remain within the Greater Newburyport area. Donations of new, unwrapped toys can be brought to The Salvation Army’s office at 40 Water St. Financial contributions made out to The Salvation Army can be dropped off, mailed, or made online at www.OnlineRedKettle.org/Give.