IAFF affiliates and their members won’t let the struggling economy get in the way of their holiday spirit. Many affiliates have long-standing traditions of providing toys to disadvantaged children while others are helping entire families survive the holiday season.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, San Francisco, CA Local 798 sponsored Run Wild for a Child, an annual competitive race and toy costume contest at Golden Gate Park. The event supports the San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program – the city’s largest and the country’s oldest program – distributing more than 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children. The program also serves many non-profit organizations in the San Francisco area.

Despite city layoffs, budget cuts and reductions in salaries, fire fighters say they want to do more to help others in need this season. The demand for help is high this year and many fire fighters are feeling a heightened need to assist families.

Milford, CT Local 944 members Jason Hall and Brian Colwell recently spoke to the New Haven Registerabout their toy drive.

“Some of the parents are just overwhelmed,” Colwell said as he described the big smiles fire fighters see from parents and children after the gifts are delivered.

The men said the toy drive is something that the entire fire department looks forward to sponsoring each year.

Milpitas, CA Local 1699 is trying to make this Christmas extra special for children in their community. Fire fighters are busy collecting donations of new unwrapped toys, food, clothes and money for needy families for their big give-away on December 18.

We’ve also heard about fire fighters teaming up with local musical groups for special holiday concerts to bring in donations for their Toys for Tots drive. Some fire and police departments are merging efforts this holiday season to help distribute toys.

What is your local doing to make a difference in your community this holiday season?