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FOR what is arguably the granddaddy of local charities, the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund is pretty spry, even after 83 years.
That was demonstrated recently when members of the Columbus Fire Department served hundreds of local residents steaming bowls of homemade chili at the annual chili cook-off. It’ll be even more evident following Friday’s cut-off date for the registration of children and their families who will receive gift packages from a small army of firefighters and volunteers Dec. 14.
Last year, the fund made Christmas a lot brighter for 1,238 children. Based on applications to date, this year’s total is expected to be even greater.
The distribution lists of the 21st century are a far cry from that first Cheer Fund delivery in 1930 when 50 children received gifts from volunteer Santas.
In those early years, the Cheer Fund was a joint effort coordinated by the Columbus Fire and Police departments. Eventually the coordination role was assumed solely by the local firefighters, but throughout its history the Cheer Fund has always been a community project.
Central to its success has been a widespread ownership of the fund, evidenced in particular by the thousands of individuals, organizations and businesses that have contributed to it through the years. Speaking to its universality have been the amounts of the donations. A great number have been in significant dollar amounts, but far greater have been smaller gifts ranging from $1 to $5. Often some of those individual gifts were counted in coins, donations from children who have raided their piggy banks so that other, less fortunate children would have a merry Christmas.
A number of donations have come through fundraising projects. More than $7,400 was contributed this year through the Mayor’s Motorcycle Ride and the Cummins Employee Motorcycle Show. The chili cook-off raised about $2,800 after expenses.
Teams representing the police and fire departments will square off Dec. 14 at Hamilton Center Ice Arena in a broomball competition and are asking spectators either to make monetary donations or bring new or gently used toys.
The Columbus North girls basketball program is encouraging fans and local residents to make donations to the Cheer Fund at its home triple-header against Pike Saturday at the Bill Stearman Athletic Complex. Games will begin at 1 p.m., with the varsity contest getting underway at 2:30 p.m. Doors will open at 1 p.m. Cheer Fund officials plan to have boxes at the game to accept donations of new or gently used toys and games.
The Cheer Fund is but one of many programs designed to brighten the Christmas holiday for children and their families in financial need. The fact that it is still fulfilling that mission after 83 years speaks to the dedication of the generations of firefighters who have kept it going and the support of a community that looks upon the fund as its own.
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