WAXAHACHIE - Generous donations from residents have made it possible to provide gifts to more than 440 families this Christmas season. Members of the Waxahachie Fire Department and the Salvation Army distributed the toys on Saturday morning.

The Waxahachie Fire Department’s annual Toys for Kids drive picks up after the cut off date for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Through donations, firefighters work to provide gifts to families so that each child will have a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning.

“Throughout this week I have been picking up toys. I did my final pickup yesterday (Friday). We sorted and sacked late last night the donations that the city (residents) gave us. I was able to buy the older girls and older boys gifts. I spent close to $500 that was donated,” said Julio Hernandez, WFD Toys for Kids coordinator. “Every year it just reminds me how fortunate to have friends and family that come and help people that they don’t even know. If you look around there are a bunch of the firefighters' kids and wives here to help and they don’t have to be here on Saturday morning but they do it out of love.”

Hernandez has been involved with the toy drive for the past 11 years but has overseen the operation for the last six years. He noted that, while the drive each year is a big project with a lot of moving parts, the result of making someone’s Christmas happen is worth it.

Salvation Army Lt. Kristin Coriston shared Hernandez thoughts about the drive and the impact that it will have in the community. She stated that the stories behind the items donated are truly heartwarming.

“Every day we get calls or hear stories like, 'My family was helped from the Angel Tree and I just wanted to help as well.' In fact, we had a student donate his new bike that he won at school to the Angel Tree program because he already had a bike. He wanted someone who didn’t have on to have one,” Coriston shared. “Those kinds of stories just blow you away because you can get so caught up in the season of getting that you forget it is about giving. That really struck my heart.”

This year the Angel Tree program will help around 1,500 children, which translates to about 400 families. Along with toys, the Salvation Army provided families with a gift card to HEB or a food box for a holiday meal.

Coriston stated that God has really taken care of the Salvation Army’s needs during the Christmas season through the generosity of so many people who have either made a toy donation or a monetary one through the Red Kettle campaign. She hopes to serve more families next year.

“I know there are still more out there,” Coriston stated. “Our goal for next year is to find the rest of those families that are in need and hopefully we can reach them as well.”