Differently-abled students collect toys for needy

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - The gift of community spirit comes in various packages.

It's shortly after noon on Thursday, with myriad shoppers permeating the Kmart Store on North Texas Street, when three teenage boys plant themselves outside the automatic doors and disperse flyers.

Their goal is to help collect toys for the needy families of Travis Air Force Base, part of a larger-scale project by the Suisun Fire Protection District Explorer Post. No. 33 that runs through Thursday at Kmart.

A few patrons opt to walk by and ignore the quarter-page sheets being handed out, which contains various drop-off locations. Others smile and comment briefly.

"I already gave, thanks," one woman said.

Regardless, the boys continue to smile, never once losing their stamina to complete their mission.

These teenagers from Fairfield High School represent the Lifeskills class for students who have "different abilities" and are guided by their teacher, Sarah Ballard.

"They're enjoying it a lot and it's an opportunity for them to give back to the community," she said of her students. "And it sets forth a positive image that they're capable of giving back to the community."

This is the second trip for Ballard's class, who last Friday stood in the same spot and collected a bin filled with toys after handing out 150 flyers. And perhaps this week will prove to be the same.
Doreen Presley, a platinum-haired woman who seems to spread holiday cheer, was the first to start filling the bin.

"I have grandkids and great-grandkids who get plenty, but there are some kids who don't get anything at all," she said after dropping four teddy bears into the bin.

Donating teddy bears is her annual signature gift, she said, and it's her way of helping the needy.

For Dennis and Nicole Flores, who came out of the store with a toy-filled cart, their plans were to return and add a gift to the bin.

"We usually do this (donate) every year - we get some toys and donate them to the needy," Dennis Flores said, who added they usually donate up to 10 toys a year. "Sometimes we'll even go to the 99 Cent store and get some stocking stuffers."

This is the first year the Suisun Fire Protection District Explorer Post No. 33, comprising 12 boys and girls, has ventured into collecting toys for needy families.

Its genesis came from Joyce Oren, advisor for Explorer Post No. 33, after realizing Travis Air Force Base also has a population of needy families.

"It seems like everything zeroes in to the homeless being the only needy, but I know there are low income military folks who are equally as needy and they're supporting our country and we should help them," Oren said.

Apart from the donated toys already collected, the Suisun Fire Protection District received a large donation from Chipman Relocations, an agent for both United Van Lines and Mayflower, on Thursday evening, filled with toys valued up to $4,600 with a receipt that stretches 4 feet.

"Our drivers donated the money and Tom Chipman (owner) matched what they donated," said Tina Pastore, a driver dispatch, who went shopping with her co-workers for the toys. "We got everything you can think of, bikes, dolls, fishing poles, tents, just everything. It felt really good."

The Explorers will be at Kmart at 2525 N. Texas St. from 6 to 8:30 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.