NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Fire Department along with the Rolling Thunder and Patriot Riders motorcycle clubs are teaming up with The Salvation Army this holiday season to help local families. They are hosting a “Fill-a-Fire Truck” toy drive on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the Kmart in Port Plaza on Storey Avenue in Newburyport.
Firefighters and motorcycle club members will be passing out “wish lists” and accepting donations of new/unwrapped toys. Monetary donations will also be accepted. All donations will support local families this holiday season through The Salvation Army’s holiday assistance program.
Over the last two years, the number of families seeking assistance through The Salvation Army’s holiday help program has more than doubled, resulting in an expected shortage of gifts and toys to meet all the requests.
“We started to see a large jump in qualified applications for help during our Thanksgiving food basket program,” Lt. Jeffrey Brunelle, commander of The Salvation Army’s Newburyport chapter, said.
While other area agencies have reached their cut-off dates for accepting applications for help, The Salvation Army is continuing to sign up families in need on an emergency basis.
“We don’t want to turn anyone who genuinely needs help away. No child should have to go without Christmas gifts.” Brunelle said.
Toys for the annual holiday assistance program are normally gathered by donations and sponsorships from various local businesses, which are supplied by The Salvation Army with star-shaped tags listing a local child’s Christmas gift wish.
The program lost a major sponsor when L-3 Maritime Systems, a business in the industrial park that had previously sponsored gifts for 50 children, relocated out of Newburyport. That, coupled with the increase in families requesting assistance has made this year’s need all the more urgent, Brunelle said.
In addition to the planned toy drive, donations can be dropped off at The Salvation Army’s headquarters at 40 Water St. in Newburyport. Contributions to The Salvation Army can also be made by giving to the various red kettle locations throughout the city or online at www.onlineredkettle.org/Newburyport.