BILOXI – Christmas would have been off for many South Mississippi children back in 2005 as their families struggled to get back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina, but New York firefighters collected toys, loaded up several trucks and delivered Christmas to the Coast. Since then the firefighters have made the 1,500 mile journey every Christmas.
Biloxi-Ocean Springs Junior Auxiliary President Jessica Dukes said, “We have benefited so much from the New York City firemen and we are so grateful for what they have done for us for the past several years in the Mississippi Santa Project. We were saddened to hear they have now been devastated and the firemen where they live is actually one of the hard hit areas.”
The Junior Auxiliary has worked closely with the firefighters to set up distribution sites and hand out the gifts every year and Dukes just received word the firefighters will not be able to make it this year.
Retired New York firefighter Tom O'Conner, who helped start the toy drive, stated in an e-mail, more than 1,000 active firefighters and even more retired firefighters have either lost their homes or sustained major damage.
“You know what they are going through and you know they have lost everything and they are now not going to have Christmas for their kids. They are not going to Thanksgiving and they didn't have Halloween and they lost their cars, clothing and bare necessities and it's heart breaking,” Dukes said.
But the firefighter spirit of helping people has not been damaged, in fact the men and women of the New York fire department are working right now to get generators to those in need and are planning a toy drive for the children in New York.
And Dukes assured the children here will also be taken care of this Christmas, the Junior Auxiliary has a Santa's Helper program, where they distribute gifts.
The Junior Auxiliary also plans to help re-pay the favor in some way, they were to meet this week to find out how they can help the New York firefighters.