12/23/07 — Firefighters spend their morning sharing Christmas with children

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Firefighters spend their morning sharing Christmas with children

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 23, 2007 2:01 AM

Danny Edwards wore a smile into the Rosewood-area Wal-Mart early Saturday afternoon.

With 7-year-old Kejuan by his side, the Mar-Mac Volunteer Fire Department lieutenant said there was something special about giving back to the community -- to children who might otherwise wake up this Christmas to little or nothing under the tree.

So along with nearly a dozen other members of the force, Edwards played Santa.

Kejuan picked out some games for himself, but mostly clothing -- sweaters, jeans and a jacket he called "the one."

All the while, Edwards was pushing the cart -- wearing the same smile he walked in with.

"It feels great to give him something for the cold weather," Edwards said. "Some-thing to get him through the winter."

About a month ago, Mar-Mac firefighters started talking about how to give back to a community that has taken such good care of their department.

But ideas from the past -- making food baskets and delivering meals -- just did not seem like enough, Assistant Fire Chief Robert Mendoza said.

So they began raising money, hoping to "adopt" a handful of children from "the neighborhood" -- ones they believed needed something to smile about this holiday season.

By Saturday, they had brought in enough in donations to give each child more than $200 in gifts.

"Anything you want," Mendoza said.

Tabitha knew what she wanted long before she entered the store.

"Game Boy?" Lt. Rob McClure asked her. "OK."

Mendoza took in the scene from afar.

"It's something to give back to the neighborhood," he said. "The community helps us out a lot. Without them, we wouldn't have a fire department."

Tabitha was busy looking for the perfect game for her Nintendo Game Boy when Quintin walked up with Assistant Fire Chief Tommy Baker and Capt. Ronnie Whaley.

The young man was eyeing a Sony PlayStation2.

"When I was your age, our games were on boards," Mendoza said to him. "We didn't have computer games."

But they did have the next gift on Quintin's list.

So when Baker and Whaley walked him over to the footballs, Baker grabbed one and called it "perfect."

"Is this a good football?" Whaley asked.

"I don't know. Go long and I'll tell you," Baker replied. "Yeah. That's a good football."

Quintin smiled before taking the ball his hands.

"Yeah," he said. "I like this one."

Across the store, 5-year-old Beautiful had her own bike picked out -- a pink one with pictures of her favorite show, Dora the Explorer, painted on the frame.

Chief Bill Harrell said he was "thrilled" to see the smile on that little girl's face when he lifted that bike off the shelf and into the cart.

"I'm just tickled to death," he said.

But his happiness was not just about the smiles his men were putting on young faces.

"It's all about helping out where you can," he said. "These guys love to do it."

Baker agreed.

It was nice to buy some presents to put under their respective trees, he said.

But for him, Saturday was Christmas.

"We see so much bad stuff, it's nice to do something good," he said. "It makes your Christmas. It isn't about what you get. It's about what you give."