A stroll through the South Pasadena Fire Department these days looks a lot like the North Pole.
“We basically have a toy store on our apparatus floor,” said Paul Riddle, the city’s fire chief, who says “it’s in the hundreds” on just how many holiday gifts fill the tables.
No one’s really counting
“In the end it will probably be a thousand or more, and they will all get distributed,” he said, talking about the assortment of toys brought to the SPFD through the ABC7 Spark of Love Toy Drive, now in its 25th year partnering with Southern California firefighters.
“This week we’re distributing the toys to families in need,” explained Riddle. “The parents actually come to the fire station, like they would at a toy store, and select toys that match the ages of their children.”
Toys left over, the fire chief noting there’s usually a surplus, are turned over to the El Monte Police Department, where they are distributed through a partnership to children in that city.
Officials say the Spark of Love Toy Drive has successfully collected more than ten million toys for underserved children and teens over the years. It takes place every November and December with the support of generous donors and sponsors. Through the effort, kids receive a new toy each holiday season.
“It’s a really, really good program,” said Riddle. Residents with big hearts bring the unwrapped gifts to the department each year, along with organizations like the Institute for the Redesign of Learning or the Almansor Center, providing care for individuals with special needs, from infants to adults, which left a large number of gifts last week with local firefighters.
“It’s really a win-win for the community,” added Riddle.