No students at Gilbert public elementary schools will go without a bright holiday season this year thanks to the efforts of the Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department.
The department will continue its tradition of collecting toys and clothes for elementary school students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. In the past, the community has come together to help the department aid hundreds of families in need, said Jean Machnicki, fire community programs coordinator.
“The community really steps up,” Machnicki said. “Even though we’re running it, it really takes all of us.”
The Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department does community outreach efforts throughout the year in an effort to help all Gilbert residents.
“We are part of the community,” Machnicki said. “It’s our community. The schools that we’ve adopted, we have fire stations there and we want everyone to have a happy holiday season. We want to help people in need.”
Residents can drop off donations at all fire stations and a variety of other locations. Some locations including Chic-fil-A and the Small Business Alliance will also have tags on their Christmas tree with specific requests from the children.
Machnicki said their biggest need is clothes and toys for elementary-aged students and older. Suggestions include footballs, board games and gift cards.
“We find the families that are really in need,” Machnicki said. “They’re happy with anything. You give a teenage girl a $10-$15 gift card to Target and she’ll go buy hair accessories or makeup and she’s thrilled.”
With Gilbert schools wrapping up their semester early this year, the clothes and toy drive will also end earlier than usual. Community members can drop off donations through Dec. 16.
Machnicki said she hopes residents will do a little extra Black Friday shopping this year and remember to stop by a donation location. Machnicki said they are expecting equal numbers if not more donations than in the past.
“We want to help everybody have a good holiday season,” Machnicki said.
• Jessica Boehm is a junior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reached her at email@example.com or (480) 898-6548.