Fire department toy program sees changes due to COVID-19

The Danville Fire Department Toy Program, which usually allows applicants to write down what toys their children want for Christmas for firefighters to buy, will look a bit different this year. This is due to the fact that many firefighters often come in contact with people who have COVID-19, said Fire Chief Doug Simpson. Heidi Lowry, executive assistant for the department and also the person leading the toy program, said this is because firefighters work with emergency medical services on their runs.

“We have to protect our staff and the public,” Simpson said in a text message.

This year, sign-ups for the toy program will take place Dec. 7 to Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Danville Fire Station 2 located on the bypass, according to the department’s Facebook page. This will be a drive-thru application process. Applicants will be asked to wear masks and keep the pens they use to fill out forms so they won’t be shared. Only children 12 years old and younger are eligible. A photo ID, proof of home address, social security card or medical card for each child and primary and secondary phone numbers are needed to apply for the program to prove the children are the applicant’s. Instead of firefighters going out to buy toys, this year applicants will receive a $100 Wal-Mart gift card for each child they apply for, with a limit of four children per applicant.

Lowry said the limit of applying for four children to receive gift cards per applicant is because the department only has so many cards, and the program will be first come, first served, trying to help as many families as possible. Her responsibilities leading the program have included putting applications together, going through the list of applicants to make sure people aren’t “double-dipping” — for example, making sure they aren’t on other lists, like the Salvation Army’s, to receive money or gifts — and ordering the cards. The fire department has ordered a lot of cards, she said.

“This is just a safer way for everybody this year and for our firefighters as well because they are on the front lines,” Lowry said.