LIVE OAK, Fla. — For close to 40 years, the Live Oak Fire Department has been helping spread holiday cheer.
The LOFD continues that tradition through Sparky’s Kids and registration for the Christmas toy giveaway is underway. Sign-ups began Monday for those families in need and will continue through Dec. 10. Registration is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the LOFD station, 200 Duval St. NE.
“The names have changed over time,” said Will Starling, the LOFD safety and training officer. “Howard Wright started it when he was fire chief, just trying to help out local families that were in need during Christmas time.
“It’s part of what we do. Through 115 years of service, we have always tried to give back everything that we could to our community. This provides a time and an opportunity to be able to help out those that truly need it.”
Through Sparky’s Kids, the LOFD provides toys and other presents to children ages 0-12. Those registering must have proof of residency in Suwannee County (driver’s license, electric bill, etc.) and proof of guardianship of the children (Social Security card, birth certificate, etc.).
The toy pickup is set for Dec. 22 from 8 a.m. to noon at the fire station.
Starling said the success of the program comes from the LOFD’s numerous community and organization partners, such as Love INC’s effort and commitment to the program as well as the First Baptist Church and Advent Christian Village’s continued support and other community organizations such as the Rotary Club of Live Oak and the Kiwanis of Live Oak.
“It couldn’t be done without them,” Starling said, adding the program has helped around 800 to 1,000 children the past few years. “They’ve taken part in it time and time and time again.”
The LOFD is still collecting donations for the program as well in the form of clothing or toys as well as monetary donations. Starling said presents should not exceed $20.
“We look at it as planting seeds for the future, showing them that there are people that care,” he said. “It’s not always about you, it’s about being able to help people.
“To be able to help families that are truly in need or are truly struggling, that’s just what you do as a public servant to begin with.”