Firefighters will be collecting canned food throughout the month for local families in need

PIONEER FILE PHOTO - Pictured is Santa Claus during last year's parade and tree lighting.

The Molalla Fire District has kicked off their annual Operation Santa Claus canned food drive which culminates with Santa parades and the town tree lighting.

Volunteer firefighters are working with the Cub Scouts and the high school key club this year to put on the event. They have placed festively wrapped barrels in schools and throughout the community for the collection of canned goods through Dec. 4. A week before the parade, they will also distribute paper bags with flyers to the community for folks to fill up.

As a part of the operation, firefighters, and likely Sparky the Fire Dog, will be at the front doors of Safeway on Nov. 25 from 1-5 p.m. for their twist on Fill the Boot. They will have their barrels for collecting food and their firemen boots for monetary donations. Any checks should be made out to the Molalla Volunteer Firefighters Association with a memo of Operation Santa Claus. The funds will be used to purchase more nonperishable food.

Volunteer Firefighter Morgan Peetz is heading up the operation this year, and is hopeful that the Safeway event will be a success.

"If we can get people going in and say, 'boy if you can buy an extra can or two of food and drop it off on your way out, it'd make such a big difference,'" Peetz said.

Operation Santa Claus will conclude with three Santa parades on Dec. 1 through Dec. 3.

"During the parade, what we'll do is circle through our parade route and we'll walk up to the sidewalk to grab the bags as the families bring them out from the houses," said Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Henner.

On Friday night, the parade route winds through the south side of town from 7-9 p.m.; on Saturday night, the route is on the north side from 4-6 p.m.; and on Sunday, the parade concludes on the northwest side of town from 4-7 p.m. Route maps will be included with the distributed paper bags prior to parade weekend.

After Saturday night's parade, firefighters and Santa Claus will end their route downtown where they'll gather with the community to light the town tree.

At the conclusion of the food drive, the food will be delivered to different families in the community. Peetz is hopeful that Molalla can rally to collect more canned food than ever before.

"I want this year to be the best year," Peetz said. "I know there are probably more people that are hungry...It's such a growing experience for me and getting out into the community to places I didn't even really know were there. It's fun to talk to people. So I hope it goes off without a hitch and does really well."

Kristen Wohlers
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