Six hundred dollars that Enumclaw firefighters collected this year - a large segment of those funds coming from last week's Santa Runs - has been donated to a young, single mother of six children who local leaders say truly needs the help this holiday season.
Andrea Tarling brought her family to the station Thursday evening to receive the check from Lt. Greg Adams and thank the fire department along with Herb Streuli, associate pastor at The Summit, where she attends services. It was Streuli who put her name forward as a candidate to benefit from the volunteer firefighters' generosity this year.
What's that money going toward? "A vehicle," she said. "I don't have one and it's been hard with the six kids. My mom has a small car but we don't all fit in it."
The children, ranging in ages from 1 to 10, also enjoyed a tour of the station and the fire trucks while mom and grandma continued to express their gratitude.
Streuli said his church has been able to help Tarling out at times with baby formula and diapers but she was struggling while working a minimum wage job to provide for her family. However, "this is a God thing," he said of the volunteer firefighters' monetary gift. Though he had lost Tarling's contact information, a fellow church leader who works with families - when asked independently to identify anyone in the church in genuine need - also thought of Tarling. "We'd come up with the same family," he said.
Adams explained that during the yearly Santa Runs, residents typically know that firefighters are collecting toys and food for the thanks to generous support from Fugate Ford who donated vehicles to be used for the collections, and local volunteers like Karen Worthington who headed the toy donation program. While Santa greets little ones in the neighborhood, however, many residents also donate monetarily to the firefighters - though they never explicitly ask for it.
In past years, firefighters collected a modest sum - about $50 or $60, Adams said. The money was generally kept by the volunteer firefighters association because it costs money to keep the association going, he said. Last year, however, the community generosity was evident and nearly $700 was collected.
"We started talking about it and we said, 'you know, we just don't really feel good about this; we can do something else with the money,'" he said.
So the association donated its collection last year to a local family who had lost their home in a fire. This year, firefighters received about $250 from the Mariners Club of Calvary Presbyterian Church. The rest came from unsolicited donations from the community, Adams said.