Donation box

A few toys sit in a Santa Pal donation box at the Harker Heights Fire Department. The Santa Pal program needs new toy donations for 500 needy children in Heights to have a merry Christmas.

The fire department’s Santa Pal program provides holiday meals and toys to several hundred needy children every year. But this year, the pickings are slim.

Last week, the toy donation boxes at the fire station were nearly empty. With distribution just a week away, Santa Pal volunteers were getting nervous about the lack of toys.

“This is what we have for 500 children,” said Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Gallenstein, motioning to several large cardboard boxes lined up in the fire station bays. The boxes each had different

labels indicating gender and age groups, but they all had one thing in common: empty space.

On Wednesday, Gallenstein was trying to stay optimistic about the toy drive.

“We’re hoping tomorrow we’ll get some stuff. Extraco Bank is collecting for us, and the Lions Club and city of Harker Heights,” he said.

Jen Peebles of Extraco Bank said the donations they’ve collected for Santa Pal are sparse, but they expect to get more between now and Dec. 17. The bank is promoting the toy drive with customers and employees.

“Next week is when that’ll kick in,” Peebles said.

New unwrapped toys are needed for children of all ages. Monetary donations are welcome as well, because they can be used to buy age-appropriate toys for older kids who are typically overlooked, Gallenstein said.

“Most people think about the younger kids but forget about the older ones.”

As of Wednesday, $700 had been donated to Santa Pal along with the few toys in the donation boxes, Gallenstein said.

“All funds go to the Santa Pal program and it all stays within the city. We don’t receive any other donations, like from Toys for Tots; it’s strictly from the citizens and go to citizens.”

Donations can be dropped off any time at the Harker Heights Fire Department, 401 Indian Trail; or during business hours at City Hall, 305 Miller’s Crossing, and Extraco Bank, 100 W. Central Texas Expressway.

For more information about Santa Pal, call the fire department at (254) 699-2688.

Contact Kristi Johnson at or (254) 501-7548

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