ARLINGTON — After 10 nights, the Arlington Fire Department’s annual “Santa Run” for 2013 wrapped up on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 15, with another year of record-breaking totals.
Even before their festively decorated fire truck set out to cover the last remaining neighborhoods on the map for this year’s food and financial collection drive for the Arlington Community Food Bank, Arlington Fire Capt. Phil Knepper estimated that the nightly hauls were between 30-40 percent larger than they’d been the year before, when the “Santa Run” set its previous records of more than 6,000 pounds of food and $500 in cash donations in the winter of 2012.
“The cash donations this year have been through the roof,” Knepper said, before the “Santa Run” fire truck left the station garage that Sunday evening. “One individual presented us with a check for $1,000, which was pretty awesome. Cascade Valley Hospital has been setting sandwich boards out in each of the neighborhoods, to pre-notify them when we’ll be showing up, and we’ve done very well as a result. We used to show up, and if people had any canned food items in their pantries that they could spare, they handed them to us, but now, they’re planning for our arrivals. We’ve literally had to stuff the collection truck to make all the food fit, and we’ve gotten cash donations ranging from dimes and quarters to hundreds of dollars. This community has been very generous.”
Fellow Arlington Fire Capt. Dave Kraski was able to quantify that generosity after the final totals were added up on Monday, Dec. 16, and he realized that he had 8,107 pounds of food and $2,340.75 in monetary donations to present to the Arlington Community Food Bank this year.
“Remarkably, the weather cooperated nicely,” Kraski said. “Although it was really cold on a few nights, it remained dry for most of the event. We’ll take cold over wet anytime.”
In return, the Arlington Fire Department presented candy canes to kids and adults alike, all along their “Santa Run” routes, whether those residents were donating or not, and as a result, what started as a supply of 10,000 candy canes had already dwindled down to nearly nothing by the time that final night rolled around.
“Most everyone we met donated, though,” Knepper said. “We always do well in the High Clover Park and Magnolia Meadows neighborhoods. It got to the point this year where there were some nights when we could not possibly put more food in our collection truck.”
Knepper was equally effusive in his praise for the volunteers who accompanied the Arlington firefighters and Santa Claus every night on their routes, starting on Friday, Dec. 6, from members of the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, to the employees of Cascade Valley Hospital and the city of Arlington. Debora Nelson was among the Arlington City Council members who received bags full of food from neighborhood residents and loaded them in the back of the “Santa Run” collection truck this year.
The Arlington Fire Department had planned one last night of collections for the Arlington Community Food Bank, at Arlington High School on Friday, Dec. 20, as AHS’s varsity boys took on the Lake Stevens Vikings, but the results of that donation drive were unavailable as of press time.