Families in need, children with special needs and local seniors in the Eel River Valley can look forward to a happier holiday season thanks to the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department’s Santa’s Sleigh program.
Donation barrels have been distributed to many Fortuna businesses, where donations of toys, blankets, coats and other items are being collected.
One local organization, the Eel River Trap Club recently made a more than $700 donation to Santa’s Sleigh, a program now in its 31st year. Trap Club spokesperson Syd Myers presented the donation to Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lon Winburn last week.
The Trap Club collected toys and monetary donations during its two-day 2018 Toys for Tots events held Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 at the club’s Fortuna venue.
“The shooters are asked to bring one to five toys, for the five events held over that two-day event,” Meyers said.
She said discounts were applied for toy donations.
“If the shooter brings a toy or toys, their event participation is discounted $10 (the value of the toy),” Myers added. “If they do not bring a toy, the club will donate $10 per participant per event to Santa’s Sleigh.”
Winburn said the program expects to serve about the same number of participants this year as in 2017.
“In addition, we have reached out to Mountain View Village, Newburg Retirement Center, and Royal Crest in an attempt to help out seniors that are low income and/or have no family,” Winburn said.
“At this point, it looks like we with be doing a food basket and a blanket for around 40 of them,” he said referring to the seniors that will be served by the program this year.
On Christmas Eve every year, volunteers load Santa’s “sleigh” — a Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department fire truck — with all the donations and deliver food boxes, toys and games, clothing, and blankets to those in need.
“We appreciate all who donate to this worthwhile program,” Winburn said. “Without the community’s continued support, we would not be able to serve those in need,” he added.
The Santa’s Sleigh program began in 1987 during the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department’s annual party for its families. Because some of the children were sick and could not attend the party, the idea was suggested to have Santa Claus go to them. The late Dave Ansley, a former fire captain in the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, helped found the program.