DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Fire engines lined the streets surrounding St. Pauls,
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.
Vincents Foster Care Services at the annual Christmas party.
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
Mr. Hirschorn has helped plan this party with Sister
Elizabeth Mullane for the last 18 years. As part of the FDNYs Toys for Tots
drive, they begin in October coordinating with volunteers from the citys
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 37s 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 Santas helpers, the
union volunteers distributed new toys in gift packages painted by St. Vincents
The smiles on the childrens 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 couldnt leave
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 years Christmas party for St.Vincents the best yet.