12/21/08 — Firefighters take children on shopping trip

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Firefighters take children on shopping trip

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 21, 2008 2:00 AM

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Mar-Mac firefighters help children choose Christmas toys Saturday morning.

Mar-Mac Volunteer Fire Depart-ment's honor guard spends most of its time protecting the community from fires and other emergencies, but come Christmas, its members play Santa Claus.

Chief Bill Harrell read about the "Shop With an Officer" program for needy children and wondered, "Why shouldn't we do 'Shop With a Fireman'?" he said.

So, for a second year, the firefighters put aside their helmets and hoses Saturday morning to take a special group of families shopping at Wal-Mart.

The volunteers' dedication came as a welcome surprise to Shirley Outlaw, a grandmother raising two grandchildren.

"I didn't expect the fire department to do anything this year, with times so bad," she said.

The firefighters collected about $3,000 through fundraising efforts this year, and together with the $2,700 raised by the Love Memorial Baptist Church, they were able to provide cloth-es and toys to 15 children and teenagers.

"We put it right back into the neighborhood," Harrell said.

Firefighter Brad Cushing helped Mrs. Outlaw's grandson, Billy, pick out some World Wrestling Federation toys and a Monopoly game, before Billy veered off to the pet department to find a present for another family member.

"That's one of the first things he said he wanted to do, was get the dog a Christmas stocking," Mrs. Outlaw said.

The firefighters' work made her grandchildren's Christ-mas, she said.

"I think it's wonderful be-cause they were going to have a skimpy Christmas," she said.

Meanwhile, Danny Edwards and Beautiful, his shopping partner for the day, searched for an elusive item.

"We were looking for a Bratz playhouse and that's the only thing they didn't have," Edwards said.

But Beautiful found some Bratz dolls and playsets.

Lieutenant Robert McClure and Captain John Harrell of the Marmac honor guard helped two young parents find necessities for their 12-month-old daughter, Hannah.

His own experience raising kids taught him what the family probably needed most, McClure said.

"When my young ones were coming up? Diapers," he said.

McClure and Harrell made sure Hannah received a new car seat and plenty of toys, and the families also received gift cards for groceries.

Love Memorial Baptist Church member Charlie McRae, who helped coordinate the event, said helping the families brought rewards for the volunteers, too.

"The firefighters had more fun than the kids," he said.

And maybe next year, other fire departments will join the effort, Bill Harrell said.

"We're hoping some more might catch on and do it," he said.

After their shopping, the firefighters treated the children to lunch -- courtesy of Andy's Restaurant.