OVFD Auxiliary Brings Back Annual Visit by Santa Claus
Santa Claus arrived in Orange a week early with the assistance of the Orange Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary and Orange firefighters. The event, conducted for the first time 27 years ago, is also the Auxiliary’s biggest fundraising event, says Jillian Gagel, president of the Auxiliary and chair of the program. She added that after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the program last year, she was excited to see it return.
“We want to spread cheer, have fun and do something wonderful for the community,” she said. “It’s a trend we like to continue. Of course, we can’t do it without the Fire Department and their boots on the ground.”
Firefighters and members of the Auxiliary, an organization dedicated to supporting the Fire Department financially and in other ways, helped Santa by accepting gifts for children and delivering those gifts. Santa, an elf and a support team arrive at each home by fire truck.
Cancelled last year because of COVID-19, the program returned this year after its only hiatus in 27 years. Santa and the elves not only had to ask if kids were naughty or nice, they also had to ask about the family’s health and vaccination status. In some cases, presents were left at the front door and Santa waved. Where Santa thought it safe, he and his elf visited inside homes.
“We are happy to continue this tradition for our community, but it was done so with health and safety in mind,” said Orange Fire Chief Vaughan Dumas. “During the initial planning phase, the COVID positive percentage rate was significantly lower, but the uptick in positivity rates caused us to make changes to protect everyone who participated. The planners reached out to all the families who signed up for the service, arranging for outside meetings where possible and screening for illness. When people requested inside meets, Santa and fire personnel who went into the homes were fully vaccinated. I thank all the residents who supported this event, the fire personnel, and members of the auxiliary for all their hard work and making this another successful community event.”
Ms. Gagel said that Santa was visiting more than 175 homes this year. She said the program had grown since Anne Davis started it with fewer than 100 participants. Ms. Davis passed in 2019, but her spirit was on every truck carrying Santa, said Ms. Gagel.
“She built this up to what it is and we’ve been continuing it,” she said. “Without her, it wouldn’t be what it is now.”
The Orange Volunteer Fire Association provides fire protection to residents and businesses in Orange and, through mutual aid, surrounding towns. Members receive training in fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials response, homeland security issues and other emergency services.
Operating strictly with revenues from fundraisers and donations, the Orange Volunteer Fire Department is one of the remaining few all-volunteer incorporated fire departments in Connecticut. Active members are on-call to serve the community on a 24-hour/seven-day basis, responding from stations on Orange Center Road and Boston Post Road.
In addition, the fire company offers public education services including lectures, demonstrations and training. For information about membership, donations or public education, call (203) 891-4703, click on https://www.orangevfd.org/ or find us on Facebook.
The Orange Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary is a branch of the department that provides non-firefighting support to the department. This includes fundraising, social functions and rehab at or after major incidents.
The Auxiliary formed in 1995, and currently has 25 members. We meet on the third Monday of each month starting at 7:30 PM. For more information, email email@example.com.