Gabriel Beccerra, 5, of Warren, shops for toys with Warren firefighter Ben Horton Dec. 4 at the 12 Mile and Mound Meijer store.

Gabriel Beccerra, 5, of Warren, shops for toys with Warren firefighter Ben Horton Dec. 4 at the 12 Mile and Mound Meijer store.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Meijer, firefighters play Santa Claus for local children

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 13, 2019

 Jada McCray Oden, 7, of Warren, had fun shopping with Warren firefighter and paramedic Justin Malburg Dec. 4 at the 12 Mile and Mound Meijer store.

Jada McCray Oden, 7, of Warren, had fun shopping with Warren firefighter and paramedic Justin Malburg Dec. 4 at the 12 Mile and Mound Meijer store.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Meijer and Warren firefighters team up to help local children shop for Christmas.

Meijer and Warren firefighters team up to help local children shop for Christmas.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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WARREN — Christmas with a Firefighter has become an annual tradition between the Warren Fire Department and Van Dyke Public Schools.

Every year during the first week of December, a group of Warren firefighters brings comfort and joy to local students by taking them on a holiday shopping spree at the Meijer store at 12 Mile and Mound roads.

During this year’s event Dec. 4, a total of 30 VDPS students from McKinley, Lincoln and Carlson elementary schools — all wearing Santa hats — were paired up with members of the Fire Department to search for toys, clothing, books and other items on their wish lists.

The Meijer staff provided each child with a $100 gift card to go shopping, right down Santa Claus lane. Meijer even opened up extra registers for the crew so they didn’t have to wait in line.

Together, the firefighters and their shopping buddies perused the toy aisles, determined to find remote-control cars, LOL Surprise dolls, Nerf footballs, crayons, clothes and more, all while keeping within their budgets. Santa Claus even stopped by to spread some holiday cheer.

“It went extremely well,” said Lt. Jim Hill, who organizes the yearly event. “It’s our 13th year and we are fortunate to be able to do this for the city.”

“I love doing it,” said firefighter Gregg Altimore, who shopped with McKinley third grader Alex Horn. “I have as much fun as they do.”

Horn picked up a Bigfoot monster truck, a plasma ball and slime. He even snuck in some candy bars for his siblings. For Horn, the experience was “great” because “it’s almost Christmas.”

McKinley fourth grader Sophia Huff went on her quest with firefighter Russell Rivard.

“It was super awesome,” Huff said. “I got to see a bunch of firefighters. I got to see my friends, and we got to get our Christmas gifts.”

“She was an excellent shopper,” Rivard said. “She’s really into Barbie dolls and LOL dolls. We were able to find them for her.”

Rivard has participated in the event for many years.

“I love the Christmas spirit of it,” he said. “I love seeing how excited the kids are. I think it’s wonderful Meijer does this. I’m happy to be a part of it every year.”

Firefighter Patrick Murphy and McKinley first grader Mar’Riah Bell shopped together.

“It was great,” Bell said. “I got candy, dolls and all the things I wanted.”

“She was fun. She was very energetic,” Murphy said.

Firefighter Justin Malburg shopped alongside Lincoln second grader Jada McCray Oden, who picked out a selection of Nerf blasters. She and her four siblings and parents like to play Nerf at home.

“It was a blast,” Malburg said. “She most of the time wanted to get gifts for her siblings. She kept wanting to go back and get more Nerf guns.”

Firefighter Jim Stevenson is a fixture at Christmas with a Firefighter.

“It’s always nice to come out, help the kids and get stuff for them,” Stevenson said. “They get stuff for their brothers and sisters and their family members so they’re surprised around the holidays. It’s really nice of Meijer to donate the money to help the kids.”

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