Firefighters & bikers deliver gifts to 135 kids

Cinthia Stimson photos
GVFD firefighter Daerrian Laird (far left), ABATE member Jami Selfe and firefighter Shane Brow deliver gifts to Alan Pittsley Dec. 23 as part of the community’s Giving Tree Program.

By: 
Cinthia Stimson cinthia@glenrockind.com

 

Love and kindness take on many forms during the holiday season and this year the spirit of Christmas came to town in the forms of Glenrock Volunteer Firefighters and members of ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) bikers, riding from house-to-house on rumbling motorcycles and onboard shiny fire trucks with flashing lights, instead of a sleigh driven by eight tiny reindeer.
The magic went down on the evening of Dec. 23 as part of the Glenrock Giving Tree event, a program which started 44 years ago when one young family moved to town.
The family lived on a tight budget, doing the best they could to make ends meet. One day they came home to find that someone had brought boxes of food and gifts to their doorstep, to help them out during the Christmas season.
“We came to Glenrock in 1975. Someone brought boxes to our house during Christmas.  There were things in there we wouldn’t use, so we shared them with our neighbors. It felt really good to share, so next year, we bought stuff and shared again,” Sharon Kemp, the founder of the Giving Tree, said while sitting at a table in the fire department hall following this year’s gift distribution.
Kemp’s selfless acts of kindness went through many iterations over the years in her town. She’s started food banks in the past, as well as the Giving Tree program and has done everything she could to see that families and children in Glenrock have what they need over the holidays.
This year the program served up gifts to 135 of the community’s children. And, each and every present was wrapped and specifically labeled with personalized name tags for each child and signed, “From Santa” by volunteers who helped Kemp with the project.
In 1977, Kemp said the fire department got involved.
“They’ve been a part of it ever since. They haven’t missed a year,” she said.
Businesses and organizations around town sign up beforehand to take names of children to place on Christmas trees in their establishments, then purchase gifts to donate for those kids, she said.
Folks from the Dave Johnston Power Plant, Hilltop Bank, Hardware Hank’s, the Masons, and private donors all help out by taking names of children and families who need help. Those families may be out of work, might have fallen on hard times or just need a little extra assistance to make it through the holidays.
In addition, members of ABATE held a toy run in the fall, riding from Casper to Glenrock. They bought toys and purchased gift cards and collected monetary donations.
Then they joined forces with the fire department and the Giving Tree program.
“It’s all about the kids,” ABATE Events Coordinator Jessi Rodgers said.
Kemp and a bunch of other volunteer “elves” were in the fire hall at all hours – even during the middle of the night – to get every last present wrapped and ready for the big night.
Piled up with gifts like the proverbial Santa’s sleigh, fire trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles left the hall  two nights before Christmas to deliver the presents all around the town.
The delivery personnel – the leather clad bikers and bunker gear-clad firemen – were greeted with delight when the unsuspecting recipients would open their doors to the gift-givers.
“Thank you. Thank you so much. We didn’t expect this,” one mother said, accepting the gifts and hugging one of the firemen. “You don’t know what you’ve done to help our family,” she continued, before stepping back inside and quietly closing the door.
After deliveries were completed everyone headed back to the fire hall for snacks and socializing, sharing in the euphoria of a job well done.
“It’s the people in this town who make it so unique. I can’t do what I do here without all of these people,” she said, motioning around the fire hall that was filled with firefighters and ABATE members who’d just returned from the “special deliveries.”
“This is what we do. We do it for the kids,” she said.

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Glenrock Independent

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