Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

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December 20, 2006
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Carson firefighters make like elves to help the needy

Though Santa Claus only needs one sleigh, it took more than a dozen shopping carts to hold about $6,500 worth of gifts for local children.

On Wednesday morning, a group of off-duty firefighters representing the Carson City Firefighters Association Local 2251 pushed shopping carts through the Wal-Mart in North Carson City to purchase toys, clothing, electronic gadgets and other gifts.

All the items will be handed out by the Carson City Salvation Army.

"Sometimes, tallness works out well," joked Capt. Dave Miller, who stands roughly 6 feet 6 inches. He was able to help other firefighters when they needed items off the top shelves and a clerk wasn't available.

This shopping trip focused on providing items to children ages 10 to 12. The firefighters involved are parents and some grandparents, but sometimes it's hard to judge what children of a certain age might most enjoy. Consultations with clerks and other customers helped.

Fire department engineer John Arneson also brought along his daughter Natalie, a 19-year-old student at the University of Nevada, Reno. She was helpful with choosing items for girls.

The firefighters have been involved with holiday donation efforts for more than 20 years. Ken Engels, also an engineer, has spearheaded the association's efforts. Co-workers refer to him as "Santa."

"He has a soft spot for kids," Arneson said of Engels, who was on his way up to Reno to pick up more toys soon after the firefighters packed the gifts in a van and SUV and headed for the Salvation Army headquarters. "He works on it year-round."

The number of local children as old as 13 who will receive gifts from the Salvation Army has risen from about 600 last year to 750 this year, said Capt. Erica Helton of the Carson City Salvation Army.

"It's a huge effort on our behalf, and it's essential to our meeting needs," she said of the firefighters' assistance.

The association paid for about $4,500 worth of the items. Much of the money was raised as a result of a drawing last week for a Jeep Wrangler.

The Carson City Salvation Army picked up the remainder of the tab by using money it has obtained through donations, and will distribute the gifts to needy families for the holidays through its Toys for Joy program.

Though gifts are important - and fun - a significant number of the children who receive items from this organization will get their first new coats ever, Helton said.

Call the Carson City Salvation Army at 887-9120 for details about how to help local needy families.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.

You can help

The Carson City Salvation Army is still looking for donations and volunteers to help distribute toys and food to local needy families during the holidays.

Call 887-9120 for details.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Dec 21, 2006 02:20AM Published Dec 20, 2006 03:00AM Copyright 2006 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.