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First West Chester Fire Company Brings Holiday Magic to Three Local Families

FWCFC volunteers and Hillsdale Elementary School staff members celebrate the second year of adopting Hillsdale families for t

West Chester, PA – On December 23, 2021, the First West Chester Fire Company (FWCFC) brought Christmas magic to life for three Hillsdale Elementary School families. This marks the second year in a row that the FWCFC and West Chester Area School District’s (WCASD) Hillsdale Elementary have partnered to brighten the spirits of those in need of some extra holiday cheer.

In 2020, following a switch to virtual meetings for the FWCFC’s members and active crew, Andy Rongaus, President of Station 51, noticed that there were unused meeting funds totaling $1,800 still available. Rongaus decided to use the funds to give back to the community and contacted Paige Merten, Hillsdale Elementary Principal, to ask about adopting one of the school’s families for the holidays. 

The pure joy that Rongaus and the FWCFC members saw on the children’s faces as they delivered brightly packaged gifts last December inspired them to add more stops to Santa’s route this year.

“After such a great experience last year we decided to double our impact and adopt two families for the holidays,” said Rongaus. “However, once we offered our members an opportunity to donate additional money for purchasing the needs and wishes of each family, we quickly realized that their generosity made it possible for us to add another family to Santa’s list.” 

Santa Claus and FWCFC President of Station 51, Andy Rongaus, get ready to deliver presents and holiday cheer.As the sun was setting the day before Christmas Eve, Santa Claus, the elves, FWCFC volunteers and Hillsdale Elementary staff packed the FWCFC firetruck with bikes, toys and more and set off to surprise the first of the three families.

“My children were so happy to see their presents; their expression had no price,” the mother of one of the adopted families was deeply moved by the time and thoughtfulness of all those involved in making her children’s Christmas a special one. “A few weeks ago, I was unsure how I would give my children a Merry Christmas, and thanks to the volunteers, the fire department and the school, they had the best Christmas ever,” she added.  

Merten has loved watching this partnership grow and knows firsthand how special it is to be able to celebrate moments like these and support the community.

“There is really no better way to experience true Christmas spirit than to ride along for the deliveries and see the families’ excitement and joy,” said Merten. “I know it helped these families to feel part of our Hillsdale community and to know we care.”

“It’s all about the kids and our community,” said Rongaus, echoing Merten’s sentiment. “When the families and their children see Santa stepping off of the firetruck to deliver their gifts it is such a rewarding moment.”

In addition to the $2,500 raised to purchase gifts and necessities for the families, the FWCFC also made a donation to the West Chester Food Cupboard. The First West Chester Fire Company is one of three 100 percent volunteer fire companies that make up the West Chester Fire Department. Station 51 is located at South Bradford Avenue and West Miner Street in East Bradford Township.