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Gift-bearing volunteers make joyful noise

December 21, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MONT ALTO, Pa. -- If the author of "The Night Before Christmas" thought eight reindeer on the lawn "arose such a clatter," he never met this group.

Sirens wailing. Horns blaring. Loudspeakers squawking.

Volunteers with the Mont Alto Volunteer Fire Department Toy Drive like to make their presence known. Dozens of them scrambled in and out of a caravan of firetrucks and other utility vehicles as they delivered wrapped gifts and food on Sunday.

Elmore and Milini Worthy's six children started waiting at the front window at 8:30 a.m., clutching homemade pictures and cookies in anticipation of Santa Claus' arrival.

"They believe now that Santa does come on a firetruck. They don't believe in the sleigh," Elmore Worthy said.

Each child to benefit from the event received at least four new toys.

"We are able to deliver to 50 families this year," said Penny Adolini, who organized the toy drive, which has been held for more than 10 years.

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She said the troubled economy and a lack of donations prompted the fire department to greatly scale back its work. In past years, the volunteers reached 140 families in a larger geographic area.

"Some people were asking where else they could turn," Adolini said, saying that some of those families were instead "adopted" by donors.

Brad Rock might only be 11 years old, but he estimated that he's helped with the toy drive for eight years.

"It's a really good event and it helps a lot of people in need," he said.

Robin Vaughn's three children benefited from the toy drive when they were young. She has wrapped toys for several years but found herself overcome with emotion Sunday while volunteering.

"This is the first year I've ever come out on the route," she said.

Vaughn, whose children joined her in volunteering, carried a large box of toys into one Quincy Township, Pa., home and wiped away tears.

"I had an idea, but seeing the kids and hearing the parents say what it means to them ..." she said, trailing off. "Hopefully my kids get out of it what I do."

Rachel Jenkins' two boys tore into their gifts as soon as they were placed on the kitchen table. The toy drive stopped at their home two years ago.

"They woke up on Christmas morning and they were happy," Rachel Jenkins said.

Elmore Worthy said the children, ages 1 to 11, think Santa Claus is on every firetruck they see throughout the year. He expressed gratitude for the experience.

"Every year, they get more and more excited about it," he said.

The South Mountain Volunteer Fire Department partnered with Mont Alto this year. Representatives of both fire companies used the toy drive as an opportunity to survey the homes for smoke detectors and distribute free ones if needed.

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