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Santa Starts From Station 24

Nine years ago Master Technician Willie Bailey, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, had a dream to bring Christmas toys to 40 needy children in Mount Vernon District. Nine years later 3,500 children throughout Fairfax County and Alexandria City are the beneficiaries of that dream.

Monday morning, December 18, "Santa's sleighs" were lined up and waiting along Lukens Lane for gifts that were overflowing from the engine bay at Station 24, Woodlawn, as Bailey and helpers disbursed toys and gifts to school and organization representatives from throughout the County. They will distribute them to schools, recreation centers and community shelters.

"This is a blessing shared by everyone in the Fairfax Fire Department. It stretches from the station Captain to the top. There's never been any hint of not to do it," Bailey said.

"We are way ahead of last year. This is a true tribute to the generosity of the people of Fairfax County," said Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Chief Michael P. Neuhard.

In addition to all the gifts collected for their own toy drive, Bailey and his helpers for the second year in a row were also able to fill two tractor trailers for the U.S. Marine Corps' "Toys For Tots" drive. They were parked at the Mount Vernon Station on Parker's Lane.

Among those waiting to load up a truck with bicycles was John L. Porter, assistant superintendent, Alexandria City Public Schools. He planned to distribute them to needy students and family within the ACPS' system and residents of Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority.

"Willie is a graduate of T.C.Williams and is still a resident of Alexandria. He wanted to make sure that the children of Alexandria were included in this effort," Porter said.

Prior to distributing the gifts, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland praised Bailey for his efforts in creating the largest toy drive in the entire Washington Metropolitan Area. Bailey also thanked all the sponsors who make the drive possible, some of whom have been with him since the drive's inception.

"We wouldn't be able to do this if weren't for all the support we get from the community and our sponsors," Bailey said. Those

sponsors include BearingPoint, Inc., Safeway, Inc., EXXON/Moble, Wal Mart, and Chadwicks and Union Street restaurants in Old Town Alexandria.

BearingPoint contributed approximately $5,000 to the drive according to Cara Couture Holtmann, the company's DC Metro Area volunteer leader. "We donated $2,500 directly to Willie and I used another $2400 to go shopping for gifts.

"I filled my cart with what I thought would certainly cost that much but when I got to check out they told me it only came to $800. I had to go around three more times. First I filled it will all girl things and then all boy things," Holtmann said.

Initiated under the aegis of the Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax County,Inc., it has become a joint effort between them, Fairfax County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, IAFF Local 2068, and the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.