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Lakewood Shoppers Fill the Fire Engine With Food, Toiletries

The West Pierce fire department conducted the drive Wednesday for the nonprofit Caring for Kids group. The food and toiletries donated will go to children in low-income families in Lakewood, University Place and Steilacoom.

They came to collect food and toiletries. They showed a fire engine's worth of generosity.

hosted the Fill the Fire Engine food and toiletry drive Wednesday in the parking lot of Safeway in the Lakewood Towne Center. Volunteers and firefighters bustled around fire trucks with donations of food and toiletries dropped off by passer-bys for the non-profit Caring for Kids.

Caring for Kids distributes these supplies to thousands of children from low-income families thoughout Lakewood, University Place, Steilacoom and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The organization has served 2,801 children with their recent back to school events this year.

This is the second year for Fill the Fire Engine. The food and toiletry drive was originally organized by Capt. Jenny Weekes and Battalion Chief Eric Norton, veteran firefighters of the West Pierce fire department and board members of Caring for Kids.

“It was a no-brainer,” Norton said of the event.

Caring for Kids “has to get their supplies from somewhere.”

He and Weekes already were connected via the fire department and the non-profit. As a result, running the drive has been relatively smooth.

Weekes said although Fill the Fire Engine is only in its second year, it's sure to get bigger and better every year.

This year, Fill the Fire Engine helped to re-stock Caring for Kids' supplies, which were running low following the Ready to Learn Fair.

“We really appreciate the fire department holding this collection for us,” said Diane Formoso, president and founder of Caring for Kids. “We work really hard to make a difference” and “have a community that really wants to jump in and help.”

Margaret Kraft is another long-time Caring for Kids volunteer helping with the drive. She is among others who will also help distribute the supplies that were slowly gathering within the fire trucks.

“When you start, you think, 'Oh, I don't really have time to do this,' but then you see the children's faces,” Kraft said. “The first time they say 'God bless you,' you're hooked.”

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