Firefighters play Santa on Christmas

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POUGHKEEPSIE – City firefighters in Poughkeepsie carried out their annual tradition of escorting Santa Claus through the city to deliver gifts to families experiencing financial difficulties.  The families are selected with the assistance of Poughkeepsie City School District personnel.

On Thursday morning, the professional firefighters, members of IAFF Local 596, loaded up Engine 3 and Rescue 1 with presents purchased by the firefighters and supplemented with gifts received from the Shamrock Association, and set out to visit 10 families throughout the city.  They even took time to stop and give presents to children they encountered along their route.

“Every year our members, led by David Laffin, hold a toy drive to collect toys for children.  This year, with the assistance of the Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club, we collected more than 100 presents and gave them to the firefighters to help their mission.  It’s what we do,” said Marty Fralick, president of the Shamrock, a private social club in the city.  Lieutenant Paul Bucher heads the operation each year and was thankful for the support of the Shamrock.  “We had enough presents leftover that we were able to drive through the city so Santa could hand them out to unexpecting children.”

Natasha Cherry developed the list for the fire department as part of her duties at the school district.  Cherry is also a member of the city council and praised the efforts of the first responders.  “The firefighters of Local 596 not only save lives while on duty, they also change lives in their spare time by providing food and holiday gifts to families in need.  I am proud to support the everyday heroes that consistently show their love for this community.”

Bucher credits his fellow firefighters for stepping up and getting together earlier in the week to wrap and sort the presents in advance of Thursday’s deliveries.  “Our firefighters look forward to getting together to brighten spirits of the kids that might not have much to smile about.  A visit from Santa really brings smiles for all of us.”

Mayor Rob Rolison was at a few of the deliveries and praised the efforts of the department.  “Our firefighters are incredible.  They spend their money and spare time to help bring joy to the city.  I am proud to have such a great collection of first responders protecting us.”

“Each year I contact the adults on the list of families to find out what gifts the children have been wanting and our members get to work to fulfill those wishes,” said Bucher.  “Most of the children we encounter are very humble and don’t ask for much.  We try to make the holidays brighter for the kids, especially during the most difficult year they have faced due to the pandemic.”