New York City firemen usually arrive in trucks loaded with toys, but this year Hurricane Sandy altered their plans many of the men flew down and bought the toys here.
New York City Firefighter Tom O'Connor said, "After Hurricane Sandy hit New York, we did cancel the trip. We were all set to come down, but thanks to people like Michelle Crowley, Charles Green and others down here they got the ball rolling and picked up the toy drive. So we did, we abbreviated it."
The Biloxi Fire Department and Charles Green, who helped start the Mississippi Santa project, stepped up to help gather the toys because most of these men have spent the past several weeks providing relief to those in their home town.
New York City Firefighter Richard Leonard said, "There were actual guys putting out fires while their own house was burning to the ground."
"It's very similar to what we dealt with when we came here after Katrina, people are still in the recovery," O'Connor said. "The damage is pretty extensive in the downtown New York metropolitan area and New Jersey. A lot of flooding."
Their relief efforts are on hold just for the weekend to continue what they started in 2005.
Leonard said, "It means a lot to us too. We wanted to continue the tradition to help out and see the smile on the kids faces when they get a toy."
While so many here have been touched by the generosity of the firefighters, they say South Mississippians have also touched them.
O'Connor said, "After nine eleven people came up and helped us and we were all on the job at the time. Then when Katrina hit we wanted to repay it here to help, now Sandy hit and you guys are coming to help. Let's hope there's not a fourth one for right now. So it's good to see everyone help each other out."
"It's the silver lining in the tragedy we are going through," Leonard said.
The firefighters will be handing out toys to the public on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon at three locations listed below:
Friday, August 29 2014 4:50 PM EDT2014-08-29 20:50:26 GMT
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