SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — It’s Christmas in April for some San Francisco families financially devastated by the coronavirus crisis.
The San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, which has been helping families with donated holiday gifts since 1949, is now retooling its annual giveaway to meet the moment.
“These are people who have been struggling and now they’re at home with their kids and they need some help,” said Jill Peeler, the program’s event coordinator.
On Thursday, dozens of volunteers, many of them firefighters and union members of the San Francisco Firefighter’s Union, Local 798, gathered at a safe social distance to distribute gift bags and groceries.
Inside the bags are arts and crafts, puzzles and other toys to help keep kids engaged and occupied while their parents work from home, or in many cases, have been laid off.
As select families from the program’s Christmas list lined up their cars to receive the donations, firefighters and volunteers lined the block, wearing masks and gloves and carrying signs with supportive slogans, such as, “We are all in it together.”
“The pandemic, the corona — the kids are at home. To be able to do this and give back … it really means so much to me,” said Tanesha Gibson, a San Francisco firefighter who conceived of the idea of pooling her colleagues’ efforts.
“Our mission is to bless the community. So kind of like random act of kindness,” Peeler said. “We know you’re home with your children, we’d like to make that a little bit more enjoyable.”
“We needed it, yeah, we really did need it,” said Myra Javius, who received gift bags, as well as some donated groceries. “I feel like it’s a blessing from God.”
The Thursday event is part of a larger campaign. Some volunteers have been delivering directly to the homes of families in need.
Josestevan Villalobos said recently delivering groceries to a father of seven who lost all three of his jobs taught him the power of giving.
“You just feel good all around,” Villalobos said. “You even feel like shakes, a little tingly. It’s amazing.”
Peeler said the program is accepting donations through its website to continue helping the community.