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Santa, Green Bay Fire collecting gifts for teens

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – Santa Claus and the Green Bay Metro Fire Department are again partnering up to bring holiday cheer to teenagers in need.

The annual Gifts for Teens Collection Parade is returning after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to make sure that kids of all ages would have a gift to enjoy this Christmas, and understand that sometimes parents can use a little help to make that happen,” Chad Decker, Local 141 Charities President and Gifts for Teens coordinator, said.

What started as a small pass-the-hat collection among firefighters in 2011 has expanded into a multi-evening, citywide collection parade – a collaboration of efforts between The Green Bay Area Professional Firefighters, Local 141 Charities and the Green Bay Metro Fire Department.

“The program began as an effort to fill a gap in the holiday giving for teens in Brown County,” Decker said. “My wife was an employee of The Salvation Army in Green Bay and involved in their holiday gift distribution. Each year, I would hear her say how sad it was to see how barren the teen gift area was. She would have countless stories of how parents would be unable to find an age appropriate gift for their teen. I just could not stand the thought of some teenager feeling left out of Christmas because of this. There are some really great programs for younger kids, but none specifically for teens. So in response to that, Christmas Gifts for Teens was born.”

Over a span of eight days, gift collection parades will make their way through each of the department’s fire districts in Green Bay, Allouez and Bellevue.

Daily parade routes can be found on the department’s Facebook page. 

Santa, and his firefighter helpers, will parade through the city’s neighborhoods from 6-7:30 p.m. each night collecting unwrapped gifts for teens.

The gifts collected will be delivered to The Salvation Army for their Christmas distribution.

“We do not sign up families specifically through our program,” Decker said. “All our recipients are signed up through The Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance Program. This is done in an effort to avoid duplication of services and helps to maintain a high level of stewardship of the donations we receive.”

He said the department strives each year to collect 2,000 teen gifts, which is the number the Salvation Army said is typically their need in that age group.

Decker said 100% of the donations collected through the parades directly benefit Brown County teens.

He said since the parades started, the response from the community has been amazing, and as the event gets back on track this year, organizers hope to continue its success.

“With the exception of last year, (because of the pandemic), we’ve seen a growth every year in our program,” Decker said. “The response from the community has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve even had some folks come out to multiple neighborhood parades. In 2019, we were only 100 gifts away from being able to meet our 2000 gift goal. We just know that our community can meet that goal, so that every teen in Brown County has something special under the tree.”

He said anyone unable to attend a parade can drop off any unwrapped gifts to any Green Bay Metro Fire Station.

The public can also order a gift online and have it shipped to Gifts for Teens at GBMFD Station 5, 2310 Finger Rd.

“We love connecting with our citizens, and this is a great way to do that in a non-emergency setting,” Decker said. “It is amazing to see how the community responds to the need, and we love being able to help showcase their generosity. The parade is a way for the Green Bay Metro Fire Department to bring the opportunity to donate to the residents. It’s definitely our kind of house call.”

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