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Firefighters And Children -- Christmas Personified

Santa arrived two days early for more than 150 children gathered in one of Hilton Mark Center's ballrooms on December 23. It was the occasion of the sixth annual Christmas party for needy children under the joint sponsorship of the Black Fire Service Professionals of Alexandria, Inc., and the Alexandria Fire Department.

Directed by Captain Thurston McClain, Alexandria Fire Department, the three hour event not only highlights a toy distribution by Santa Clause but also a buffet lunch. Once again this year the role of the jolly man in red and white was portrayed by John Moorehead, III, who personally greets every child and presents them with a special gift.

Each of the City's recreation centers are represented as well as the primary shelters. "We are able to do this each year because of the gifts and financial support we receive from our major contributors," McClain said. That includes one anonymous donor who provides $500 every year.

McClain started the party because he was an attendee at a similar event as a child. "Christmas is all about the kids. And, particularly needy kids need this at Christmas time," he said.

Each year members of the Alexandria Fire Department join in both the preparations for the party and the event itself. This year a long line of department personnel followed Santa into the ballroom each carrying a large bag of goodies for the anxiously awaiting throng. When they entered the decibel count went off the charts.

In addition to each child at the party receiving a special gift, whole bags of gifts and necessities are distributed to families recommended by the shelters, recreation centers and public housing complexes throughout Alexandria. As noted by several of the volunteers present, "This is what Christmas is really all about -- helping those in need."