Helping Santa project underway in Russellville

For the sixth straight year, all the departments in the city of Russellville are pitching in to give Santa a little extra assistance this holiday season through the annual Helping Santa program.

Russellville Fire Capt. Randy Seal, who is once again coordinating the event, said the purpose of the Helping Santa program is to make sure local children have something to wake up to on Christmas morning, no matter what their circumstances may be.

Last year alone, more than 800 children received presents through the city’s Helping Santa program. Seal said even after doing this for five years, it’s still one of the most rewarding things he could think of to do at this time of year.

“To be able to reach out to so many children in our county that probably wouldn’t have had the same kind of Christmas that other children their age will have is a great thing,” Seal said.

“It truly is a blessing to be part of something that brings joy to so many people – both the parents, grandparents and the children.”

In years past, the program was mainly open to children living within the city limits of Russellville since the program is sponsored by the city’s departments, but for the past two years, the program has been open to children in the county as well.

This year, the first pick-up day will still be set aside for Russellville residents, the second pick-up day will be for Franklin County residents and the third day will be for anyone else who didn’t fit into one of those categories.

“Even though the city of Russellville sponsors this program every year, we want all the children in our county to have a chance to wake up to something special on Christmas morning,” Seal said.

Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the poor economy is definitely a factor for families when it comes time to buying gifts at Christmas, but he would hate to see a child go without something because of a bad situation they cannot help.

“When we became firefighters, we made a commitment to serve our community and this is just one more way we can do that,” he said.

He also said that on the pick-up days for the toys, he hopes the parents will come on their own without their children so the presents can be a surprise.

“No one who is sponsoring this program wants any recognition for what we’re doing,” Mansell said.

“We want the parents to pick up the presents and then give them out as they see fit for their family.”

For those who are in need this year and would like for their children to be able to receive gifts through the Helping Santa program, packets are now available at the Russellville Police Department in downtown Russellville between the hours of 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

Anyone wishing to participate in the program must fill out the forms in the packet completely and have the following documentation to be eligible to receive gifts: name and address of parent or guardian; proof of residency (utility bill); picture ID of parent or guardian or of person allowed to pick up gifts; proof that each child lives at the same address (school ID, lease agreements, etc.), and other pertinent information.

Packets and documentation must be turned in no later than Nov. 29 at 4 p.m. to Sgt. Linda Michael at the Russellville Police Department.

Pick-up days for gifts will be Dec. 18 for those living inside the city limits of Russellville, Dec. 19 for Franklin County residents, and Dec. 20 for anyone else not in those two categories.

Anyone who would like to make donations of new or slightly used toys for children ages newborn to 15 years old can drop the toys off in the Helping Santa boxes located at the following businesses and locations: Russellville City Hall, Ralph C. Bishop Community Center, Chucky Mullins Center, Russellville Police Department, Russellville Fire Department Stations 1 and 2, Russellville Street Department, Dependable True Value, Country Cottage Assisted Living, Hibbetts Sporting Goods, Fred’s, Five Star Pizza, Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, Alabama Central Credit Union, First Metro Bank, all Valley State Bank locations in Russellville, Community Spirit Bank, all CB&S Bank locations in Russellville, Valley Credit Union, Jack’s Restaurant, Wal-Mart, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Goody’s, CVS, Miller’s Affordable Furniture, Artistic Jewelry, Frosty Inn, Wayne’s Catfish Haven, The Drug Shop, Family Pharmacy and Hometown Pharmacy.

Monetary donations can be made at any of the banks listed in order for organizers to purchase additional toys and needed items.

“We’ve had great support for this program from the community in the past and we hope the community will continue to support this worthy cause,” Seal said.

Mansell added that people and municipalities throughout the county are encouraged to support the Helping Santa program this year since county residents are also able to participate.

“We will welcome any and all donations that will make this program a success this year,” Mansell said.

Any business or organization that would like to have a toy drop-off box at their location can contact Seal at 256-332-8761.

For questions or for further information, contact Sgt. Linda Michael at 256-332-2230.

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