It was part of the fourth annual EMS Fill the Box campaign to help raise money and toys for the Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance programs.
“It’s a really good, really good day,” said Kevin Marsh, a deputy chief at Sullivan County EMS. “It’s a day of giving back. It’s a way for us to give back to the community, and we all feel fortunate that we can do that. A lot of our employees bring their children. We all enjoy it. And we’ve always gotten such a great response from the public.”
The Fill the Box theme came about because the back of the EMS’s ambulances looks like a large box, Marsh said. Throughout the event the public was invited to purchase gifts — large, small, toys, clothes — and place them in the back of one of two Sullivan County EMS ambulances parked outside the store’s two main entrances.
“Our goal is to have both ambulances full by 8 p.m. when the event ends,” Marsh said, noting that goal wasn’t far-fetched based on last year’s response.
The gifts will then be dropped off at the Salvation Army’s distribution center, Marsh said.
“We realize there are a lot of people who’d like to help provide gifts for an angel, but maybe don’t think they can afford to buy multiple gifts ... or they are just running in Walmart and don’t have time to adopt an angel and go shopping,” Marsh said. “This gives them a chance to go pick out a toy or some clothes, and everything will go to help the Angel Tree program.” The gifts will be used to take care of angels who are adopted but have no gifts returned and to fill out the number of gifts angels receive.
The Fill the Box campaign’s on-site advertising consisted of two large hand-colored banners, one for each ambulance, that were projects of second-graders at Andrew Johnson Elementary School, Marsh said.
While the campaign was underway, EMS workers took turns working two-hour shifts as bell ringers for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
In the middle of the afternoon, Trevor Burress and his three sons, Paxton, Callan, and Rankin, were volunteering as bell ringers.
“It’s a good thing for them,” Burress said, noting his sons were out of school anyway. “It’s showing them how to help give to others who are in need.”