“It’s really heartwarming”: more than 1,000 volunteers wrap gifts for children during the annual SAFD toy drive


Armed with wrapping paper, scissors, duct tape and plenty of holiday spirit, more than 1,000 volunteers turned San Antonio’s Fire Training Academy into a Santa Claus workshop, wrapping gifts for the children of all the city.

Volunteers sat at tables to dress donated Christmas gifts with ribbons and bows. When the tables filled, many were working on the floor.

Charlize Cosmas, 17, was one of many Antonian High School basketball players who helped out on Saturday morning at the closing party for the Santa’s firefighters’ toy drive.

“It’s so much fun to spread the joy of Christmas,” she said. “I really appreciate the satisfaction of knowing that every child will receive a present for Christmas. It really warms my heart. “

Catherin Lazo prepares to do her part as a volunteer at the Santa Claus Firefighter Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

The wrapped gifts on Saturday had been picked up from four HEB locations the previous three Saturdays, firefighter spokesman Joe Arrington said.

When the volunteers arrived at the training academy on South Callaghan Road on the West Side, each received a trash bag and a sticker with the names and ages of the children they were going to be wrapping gifts for.

Each child was to receive four toys. Each family on the list will receive a few board games and stuffed animals.

7-year-old Oleisa Aguirre with her mother Julie Aguirre points to a toy he loves.  Emberly Buckley, 7, searches for a present for herself.  The three were at the Santa Claus Firefighter's Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

7-year-old Oleisa Aguirre with her mother Julie Aguirre points to a toy he loves. Emberly Buckley, 7, searches for a present for herself. The three were at the Santa Claus Firefighter’s Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

After the gifts were wrapped for 1,500 children, there were about 1,000 left, Arrington said. These were collected later today by groups such as River City Outreach, TMC Tree of Hope and Little Flower Parish, who will distribute them to children in need.

Arrington said this year’s event has attracted a record number of donations and volunteers – typically around 600 people help wrap gifts for up to 1,200 children.

It was the third year that Christina Madrid participated in the closing party.

Madrid, 36, is a dental hygienist whose husband works for the San Antonio fire department. She said she comes back every year because she wants to help families who may not have other source of gifts for their children.

“It just takes a little of our time to be able to make someone else’s Christmas,” she said.

Marissa Herrera packs a doll at the Santa's Firefighter's Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Marissa Herrera packs a doll at the Santa’s Firefighter’s Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

Firefighters in fire trucks will deliver the packaged toys to families between their regular chores. Children who will receive gifts have been nominated by their school counselors.

Arrington said about 80% of the department’s 54 stations have freebies delivered to their area.

“It’s tough when you’re shopping in the middle of the night and walking past a house and they don’t even have a Christmas tree,” Arrington said. “Every child should be able to experience this magic, so that’s our motivation. Just make sure all the kids in San Antonio are looked after and experience it.

The toy drive is a collaborative effort involving the San Antonio Fire Department, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, HEB, and Generations Federal Credit Union.

Rebecca Moore wraps gifts at the Santa's Firefighter's Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Rebecca Moore wraps gifts at the Santa’s Firefighter’s Toy Drive Closing Party at Fire Training Academy in San Antonio.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

The closing night has been taking place at the training academy for about 10 years.

Michelle and Darryl Reid, both nurses, played Christmas music on a smartphone as they wrapped gifts for two families. Michelle, 58, said that since growing up as a “disadvantaged person” she enjoys doing something for someone else.

“We’ve been so lucky in our lives, and to a certain extent it’s just a way for us to be able to give back,” said Darryl, 56, “especially to those who, if not for something like that, there would be nothing on Christmas morning.

[email protected]


Comments are closed.