Since 1988, the Lawrence Fire Dept. has conducted a local food and toy drive for local families in need during the holidays.
The initiative, called Lawrence Firefighters Family Assistance Program, provides families in need with gasoline, fresh food and pantry staples, new toys and furniture. The program operates at no administrative cost, meaning 100 percent of the donations are used to fund the items given to families.
LFD Chief Dino Batalis said the program started with just three families and has grown to more than 700 families that receive help each holiday season.
“We gave about 800 or 900 kids new toys for Christmas last year,” Batalis said. “It’s so much fun for them. While their parents are busy picking from the food items or receiving their food gift cards, the kids get to explore the fire station.”
Batalis said the most rewarding part of the program is seeing the same people who received help the previous year jump in and volunteer their time the next year.
“We have a lot of returning faces,” he said. “It’s so great to see folks pay that forward, even if they aren’t in the best of places themselves.”
Although the fire department is “at the wheel” of the operation, Batalis said the program wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers and donations from Lawrence.
“Charity is giving with your heart and both hands, and our community does that,” he said. “The department is the facilitator, but if it weren’t for the open hearts of the community, we couldn’t do this.”
Although the holidays are typically when the program attracts the most attention, Lawrence Firefighters Family Assistance Program runs year-round to provide families with necessary resources and materials.
Monetary and toy donations are welcomed. Toy donations can be dropped off at the Lawrence Government Center lobby, while donation checks can be mailed to the Lawrence Fire Dept. payable to Firefighter Family Assistance Fund. For more, visit the City of Lawrence website.