Forgotten Child Fund opens applications, toy store for Christmas - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Forgotten Child Fund opens applications, toy store for Christmas 2011

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The roof may be a little drafty. The counter-tops may not be set yet. But even Santa's own workshop isn't ready to roll seven weeks and four days until Christmas Eve.

And Chattanooga firefighter Nick Saynes couldn't be anywhere else.

"I have two children of my own," he says. "I couldn't imagine them not having a Christmas, I just want to help those less fortunate."

Saynes was joining about a dozen firefighters, police officers and their spouses for the opening of the Forgotten Child Fund's toy shop and application center at 1715 E. Main Street Tuesday morning. The Fund has brought Christmas presents to needy children in the Tennessee Valley for 46 years.

"We did 6,500 families last year," Fund spokesman Clay Ingle says. "And if need be, we'll do 7,500 this year."

The Fund is already on its way. Volunteers took applications from 21 families in the first hour and a half after the Center opened.

"I'm laid off at the moment, but I'm still searching for another job," Latesha Ballard says.

Ballard put in for toys for her son, 6, and daughter 4.

"They do have family members that will help," she says. "But I'd like to do more for them."

If last Christmas offers clues to this holiday season, hundreds of families will use the Forgotten Child Fund as a 'fallback.'

"We actually had to extend the application days," Ingle says. "We put them through the 311/United Way system so they're checked out, and we can verify that they need help."

Santa's Store kicks into high gear Friday. The fund has spent more than $45,000 to buy two truckloads of toys.

But that's only the beginning.

"We've had the fishing tournaments and motorcycle toy rides," Ingle says.

Come December, police officers and firefighters will put on the gloves. A 'Guns & Hoses' boxing tournament will put teeth and pride at risk to collect toys and cash.

But the final round comes Christmas Eve.

Few could miss the Santa Train, when lights flare and sirens blare, in a miles-long motorcade to deliver presents, and a special visit from St. Nicholas to the ten families whom the Fund has deemed most needy.

"When the parents start picking up the toys, it really starts hitting you," Saynes says.

"You actually build a relationship with them--where they're coming from, and how thankful they really are."

The Forgotten Child Fund will take applications from 10AM-2PM weekdays through December 16.

Parents or guardians most bring photo ID of themselves, and Social Security cards for every child they wish to be included.

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