They didn’t arrive in a sleigh with a team of reindeer, but members of the Irrigon Fire Protection District assumed the role of Santa Claus to help provide a brighter Christmas for a 5-year-old Irrigon boy.
Volunteer firefighter Joey Munkers and volunteer Lt. Thad Marti said Irrigon is a small community, which often results in people becoming aware of hardships others are going through. While his name and the specific circumstances aren’t being made public, the first responders sprung to action to “adopt” the boy during the holiday season.
“It’s important because that little kid wouldn’t have anything at all for Christmas,” Marti said.
Since they don’t have a formal program to access funds for such needs, Munkers said the volunteer firefighters dug into their own pockets to purchase presents for the young boy. With a wad of cash, Munkers, Marti and several others headed to the Hermiston Walmart Saturday afternoon to buy presents.
Browsing the aisles without a shopping list, they looked for things they thought a young boy might like. And then they found the perfect gift — a toy fire engine. In addition to lights and sound effects, it’s equipped with a water tanker.
“You can actually spray water out of the hose,” Marti said.
It seems there is truth in the idiom “one good turn deserves another.” After purchasing 15-20 gifts, Munkers and Marti headed outside the store to discover members of the Hermiston Assembly of God Church offering free gift wrapping — no strings attached, but lots of bows.
As part of the ongoing “I Love My City” campaign, about 50 volunteers were stationed at tables stretching between both sets of main doors to the store.
“That was a bonus,” Munkers said. “We were going to recruit my mom to wrap them.”
Munkers and Marti said the firefighters, which includes 12-15 volunteers, are involved with a couple of projects that give back to the community. In addition to the Christmas Basket program, which helps families in need, they conduct public education about fire safety in the schools and community. A year-round project, the firefighters also collect and refurbish bicycles, giving them to kids for their birthday or at Christmas.
“People know that if they have an issue they can reach out to us and we’ll do the best we can to help them out,” Munkers said.