Members of the Danbury Volunteer Fire Council and its 12 volunteer fire companies emptied truck after truck Saturday filled with toys for kids served by Family & Children’s Aid.
The firefighters, many of them wearing Santa hats, unloaded the toys bucket-brigade style. There were basketballs and dolls, building blocks and stuffed animals, every toy imaginable for kids on Santa’s list.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful testament to how this community pulls together — all the time — for everything,” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said. “Thanks to you, we’re going to make some of these folks a little happier.”
Gene Eriquez, a Family & Children’s Aid Foundation board member and a former Danbury mayor, shared similar thoughts saluting the men and women who spent a month collecting toys outside Toys ‘R’ Us on Backus Avenue.
“You’re representative of the Danbury spirit, the holiday spirit,” Eriquez said. “You’re going to make a profound difference in the lives of children and their families.”
The toys were brought into Family & Children’s Aid on West Street and spread over two long rows of tables at Playmakers Village, a Disney-like collection of storefronts where kids go to learn, heal and have fun in a safe, nurturing environment.
The community toy drive was organized by Jennifer Ortega and Peter Hornik of the Danbury Volunteer Fire Council.
Downstairs, Family & Children’s Aid officials gave tours of the new Harmony Station, an incredibly detailed replica of a New York City subway stop. The tile work, the signs, the sounds pumped into the car, everything fed the imagination and the soul, just like Family & Children’s Aid.
“If you’re a 14-year-old kid and you’re mad at the world, mad at life, this is such a good place for you to come,” said Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, a member of the Family & Children’s Aid Board of Directors. “The work they do here is amazing.”
Each year, Family & Children’s Aid helps about 5,000 clients improve their emotional and mental health. The non-profit agency was one of the first to help those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December 2012.