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Sullivan County EMS workers ring bells, conduct toy drive

J. H. Osborne • Dec 11, 2019 at 8:31 AM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan County EMS workers braved cool temperatures and steady rain on Tuesday to conduct their fourth annual “Fill the Box” toy drive at the Walmart on Fort Henry Drive.

The event benefits those served by the Salvation Army of Kingsport in two ways: the EMS workers, working in two-hour shifts over a 10-hour period, took turns ringing the bells at the Army’s two Kettle Campaign stations outside the store’s two main entrances; and the workers encouraged donations of toys to be used in the Army’s “Angel Tree” program.

The name of the effort is a play on the box-like shape of EMS ambulances. There were two on hand, one at each entrance, and donors were asked to fill each with toys. About halfway through the event, both “boxes” held hefty payloads of toys.

Salvation Army Maj. Jane May said the toys will be used to fill any gaps in the Angel Tree program, which  this year will serve 626 area children and 71 elderly community members. As of Tuesday, all the “angels” had been adopted, May said, but now the challenge is to make sure everyone who “adopted” one turns in gifts for that child or elderly person by the Dec. 16 deadline. And the EMS effort goes a long way toward helping the program, May said.

“This is our biggest thing,” May said. “They are our biggest toy drive of the season.”

May noted this is the 40th anniversary of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program — which started in Virginia, then drew national attention after its originators transferred to Nashville.

Kayla Duncan, a paramedic with Sullivan County EMS, said this is her third year ringing the bell during the “Fill the Box” toy drive.

“It makes me feel so good,” Duncan said. “I love helping the less fortunate. It’s very humbling.”

Sullivan County EMS Deputy Chief Kevin Marsh said the agency’s members began “Fill the Box” because they wanted to give back to the community.

Marsh said they easily agreed ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign was something they wanted to do.

“You’re not going to find a better way to give back,” Marsh said. The toy drive was adapted from a similar effort they’d heard about by another EMS agency in another state, Marsh said, and the box-like shape of the ambulances just seemed a natural fit for naming the effort.

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