Firefighters will serve as Santa’s helpers

Santa Claus will partner with the Cortez Fire Protection District on Christmas Eve to deliver holiday gifts and meals to 11 local families.

“Santa Claus is coming to town,” said fireman Chad Daniels. “He’ll actually ride with us in the fire truck.”

Daniels explained that he and fellow firefighters donate a portion of their paychecks to help fund the charitable program for families needing assistance

“Some guys donate $2 or $3 per paycheck, but others give up to $10 or $20,” he said. “Over the past year, we collected about $2,700. This all comes out of the guys own pockets.”

With the funds, each family receives a pre-cooked Christmas dinner from Safeway and a $40 gift card to City Market. Daniels said firemen also purchase $50 in toys and clothing for each child under the age of 18. This year, 27 children will receive gifts.

In addition to helping Santa deliver gifts, firefighters also wrapped the gifts. The overall effort makes for one proud fire chief.

“It shows our firefighters care about the community they serve,” said Chief Jeff Vandevoorde. “They don’t care for the recognition or any fanfare. They just love seeing the kids they help smile.”

Entering its fifth year, the holiday drive relies on assistance from both the Piñon Project and the Salvation Army. Attempts to reach both organizations for comment were unsuccessful.

Wal-mart cut 30 percent off toy and clothing purchases, helping to save the program more than $400.