The fire truck’s siren was blaring, as were the sirens on several other fire vehicles, as they entered the NCCF grounds headed toward the Greentree Shelter on Christmas Eve. What was the emergency? Nothing serious — just Santa Claus perched atop the Cabin John Volunteer Department Engine coming with his elves (other members of the fire department) in several other fire department vehicles for their yearly delivery of Christmas presents to the 27 children living at the shelter. As the children lined up outside to greet Santa, one mother said “It’s like a dream come true. My son dreamt last night that Santa was in the sky and said he was going to be here tomorrow.”
For the past 35 years, the Cabin John department has collected toys from nearby neighborhoods for the children at the shelter. Starting in early December, based on a schedule listed on their website, department vehicles roar through nearby neighborhoods sirens blazing, with Santa waving from atop an engine, to collect new, unwrapped toys donated by residents. Then all the toys are wrapped at the department and readied for delivery. Each child gets several presents, picked just for them, based on an ongoing list of children sent by the shelter staff to the department during December.
It was hard to tell who was more excited — the children or the firefighters. “Seeing the kids’ faces is priceless,” said firefighter Greg Karel.
Marjorie Middleton, Greentree Shelter Residential and Childcare Service Coordinator, says the yearly visit is all part of the shelter’s effort to help families become self-sufficient, which “places a lot of burdens on them. This takes away one burden. They don’t have to worry about if they can they get presents for their children.” Middleton also noted that “it is nice for the shelter residents to see that people other than the shelter staff and volunteers care about them.”
Acting Cabin John Chief Corinne Piccardi said all the presents were gathered during the neighborhood runs or dropped off at the station, “The community was very generous,” she said. “We did not have purchase any gifts.”
After Santa delivered each present with the name of a shelter resident, it was time for him and his elves to head to the Scotland neighborhood in Potomac to deliver more presents. And it was time for some very delighted children to enjoy their presents or eagerly await opening them on Christmas morning.