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  Public Employee Press

PEP Feb 2001
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Touched by union angels


Fire engines lined the streets surrounding St. Paul’s, a centuries-old steepled church in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn that glowed with holiday cheer Dec. 15. One hundred DC 37 volunteers, 40 fire fighters, clowns, a juggler and the Cookie Monster brought joy and laughter to the children of St. Vincent’s Foster Care Services at the annual Christmas party.

Each year, members of District Council 37 and other municipal unions make the season bright for 200 children with severe medical problems. Some of the children, who are in foster care, suffer from diseases like diabetes, HIV and cancer.

“Many of these kids were abused, and for some it may be their last Christmas,” said a teary-eyed Alan Hirschorn, a fire inspector in Chapter 21 of Local 375. “Making their holiday a happy one is our special way of telling them they are loved.”

Mr. Hirschorn has helped plan this party with Sister Elizabeth Mullane for the last 18 years. As part of the FDNY’s Toys for Tots drive, they begin in October coordinating with volunteers from the city’s fire, police and corrections departments and contacting sponsors like Macys, Toys R Us and local toy dealers who seize the chance to create special memories for needy children in the community. More than 10,000 toys were distributed to hospital pediatric wards and group homes throughout the city.

Other union members pitched in by collecting monetary donations, which were generously matched by DC 37’s Civil Service Technical Guild Local 375.

Children in bright red firefighter hats chased clowns, and others in wheelchairs sang along as Alvin and the Chipmunks crooned Christmas carols. Then, like Santa’s helpers, the union volunteers distributed new toys in gift packages painted by St. Vincent’s kindergarten class.

“The smiles on the children’s faces are just the best,” said Dorothy Waters, a volunteer and Local 1549 member, who handed out gifts to a family caring for five foster children with special needs.

“These kids love to be loved,” said foster parent Millicent Shield, who with Juana Ruiz recently added a wheelchair-bound little girl to their foster family. The child had spent the first four-and-a-half years of her life abandoned in a hospital. Ms. Shield said with a warm smile, “I just couldn’t leave her behind.”

When the festivities ended, it was difficult to say who had a better time — the children, the foster families or the union volunteers who made this year’s Christmas party for St.Vincent’s the best yet.



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