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Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Humboldt Beacon

In the season of giving the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Company 2 is keeping the spirit alive with their annual Santa's Sleigh program, which was created in 1987 by Dave Ansley.

Ansley originally called the Company 2 service “Teddy Bear Drive.” Ansley was secretly Santa and was chauffeured by fire truck.

”Santa went to the homes of over 30 disabled children that had special needs that were unable to leave their house to visit Santa,” said Fortuna Fire Chief Lon Winburn. “They were given candy canes and a teddy bear.”

The program has received wide support over the years and this year is no different. The Fortuna Rotary Interact Club held a bake sale under the leadership of Maureen Lackey and raised $1,000. The Fortuna Rotary Club led by President Robert Johnson matched the Interact donation to the Santa Sleigh program.

Ansley, along with Company 2, added a second phase to the company service.

”Santa and Mrs. Claus along with helper elves visited all of Fortuna's senior care homes where they spent time with the elderly giving each one a stuffed animal, candy cane, and a lot of love,” said Winburn.

This year, in addition to the Fortuna Rotary and Interact donations, the program received support from another organization. Sarah Mora leads the Hydesville 4-H, which worked very hard to raise hundreds of dollars for the program.

”We donated $792.50,” said Mora. “The extra $100 in the envelope was donated by Lou Mora's neighbor later because we shared some of the cupcakes we bought with them.”

Sarah Mora thanked the FVFD for letting the kids make their presentation.

”They were pretty proud of what they raised this year,” Mora said.

4-H is a program for youth ages 5 to 19 and teaches life and leadership skills through project work.

”One aspect is support for the community through their community service projects,” Mora said.

Hydesville 4-H has approximately 80 young people participating at this time.

”The Santa Sleigh donation was part of their community service work for the month of November,” Mora said. “The group participates in projects ranging from livestock, home economics, science, leadership, shooting, and much more.”

In 1998 a third and largest phase of the Santa's Sleigh service was created.

”This phase was added to help and service families in the community who would otherwise not have Christmas,” Winburn said.

Families sign up for the program and then are visited by a volunteer to find out the individual needs of each child. That list of needs is then specifically filled by general donations in the barrels placed at businesses around town for the Santa Sleigh program or by individual sponsorship of those individual children.

”Each child receives at least two to three gifts including warm clothing and toys,” Winburn said. “Santa makes his deliveries on Christmas Eve Day via fire truck and convoy. In addition to the children's gifts each family receives a box of food consisting of canned food that has been collected from the local elementary and high schools a large canned ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, rolls butter, juice and pie.”

On behalf of Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Company 2, Winburn thanked everyone who supported the program by either donating toys, teddy bears, clothing, monetary donations or time.

”We look forward to another season of serving our community,” he said.

If you have a child who is unable to go out and visit Santa this year and live in the Fortuna fire district area of Fernbridge, Fortuna, Alton, Hydesville, Rio Dell, Ferndale, and Loleta Santa may be able to come to you.

”He'll come in his very own fire engine sleigh, bring you a teddy bear, candy cane, and tons of hugs,” Winburn said.

If you would like to set up a visit call the FVFD Chief Lon Winburn at 725-5021.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

The Hydesville 4-H Club members made a presentation to the FVFD Santa's Sleigh program. The group for their November community service fundraising raised almost $800 for the program.