LATHROP – On the surface it’s just a couple of firefighters putting up a Christmas tree in the lobby of Lathrop’s City Hall.
It’s the season for that, and to the untrained eye they’re a festive bunch doing festive things the week before Thanksgiving. Nobody can claim that the Christmas season isn’t starting earlier and earlier each and every year.
But it’s what that group of firefighters is going to add to the Christmas tree that is going to set it apart.
For the 15th straight year, Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association Local 4317 – on Friday at 1 p.m. – will be putting individual “adopt a child” tags on the tree in an attempt to get the community involved in its annual Christmas for Kids event that provides the less fortunate with an evening of fun and festivities.
Event chairman and Lathrop-Manteca Engineer Kevin Wallace, who has been at the helm for the last eight years, knows that the community routinely comes out in droves to make sure that kids that would otherwise go without end up with something to make them smile during the holiday season.
“Every year we’re blown away because of how this community comes together, and every year it turns into an awesome event,” Wallace said. “I can’t say enough about what people do to make this event successful and great for the kids – at the end we’ll have one person come in and pick out five or six names and go out and get presents for them, and some of our guys will come in and grab two or three just to make sure that everybody gets something.
“It’s all about that night and the kids and their families and I think people realize that.”
The annual event, however, includes much more than just a few presents given by Santa Claus. Each one of the families that shows up is treated to a full pizza dinner and goes home all of the necessary materials to make a full Christmas dinner – brightening up the holiday beyond just the one night that they welcome them in.
A strong team of recurring board members – acting captain Tim Kovac and Jeff Parker and captain Keith Conner – have helped Wallace establish a solid foundation for an event that has become an annual community staple.
Lathrop Police Services helps provide names of children and families that they come across throughout the year that could use help during the holidays. Lathrop’s Head Start program and local schools provide the other names necessary to fill up the tree with pink and blue cards that are tailored for each individual child.
Wallace knows what to expect as the event draws nearer. He knows that when those families do arrive, and those kids do get to see Santa Claus, that the generosity of the community will be painstakingly evident for all to see.
“It’s a blessing to be able to give back to the community, but every year I get a different story and see different things that reaffirm why I do this,” he said. “You see the smiles on the faces of the kids and just being able to be a part of something like this – something that means so much to these kids – is special.
“Every year there’s a new blessing for me. I love doing this.”
The Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association Local 4317 Christmas for Kids event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 19, at Grace Community Church – located at 850 J Street next door to Lathrop-Manteca Fire District headquarters. The event begins at 6 p.m.