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Helping Santa drive receives abundant donations despite COVID

A pandemic did not stop the people of Franklin County from giving, as the Russellville Helping Santa Toy Drive received an abundance of donations to be distributed to families throughout Franklin County.

Russellville Fire Capt. Randy Seal said this year the toy drive received applications for help from 155 families. Even after toys had been added to bags for all of the children, there were still a ton of toys left over.

“I would say I’m surprised how much we got, but at this point, how many donations we receive has stopped surprising me, just because we always have people willing to help,” Seal said.

Seal said because of how many toys were left, the fire department decided to travel to low-income neighborhoods on Christmas Eve to bring toys to families.

“We want to make sure these toys are going to families in need,” Seal said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure everyone has a great Christmas.”

Seal said in addition to families who applied, the fire department also delivered toys to families they knew had a difficult year, such as those experiencing a house fire.

Those who applied for the toy drive picked up their gifts Dec. 21-22.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the toy drive used a drive-through format this year. Vehicles drove into the fire truck bays, where RFD personnel loaded toys into their vehicle.

Toys were pre-packaged depending on age range and gender. Each child received several medium-sized items, and each family received one larger item.

Seal said donations came from across the county, from individuals as well as from several local banks, businesses and church groups.

With the monetary donations provided, the toy drive was also able to purchase bigger items, such as karaoke machines, scooters and bicycles.

“This has really grown a lot in the 13 years we have been doing it, and we have learned a lot in that time,” Seal said. “I don’t think it ever gets old seeing the excitement on these kids’ faces.”