Santa Claus and his elves arrived a day early at the new home of a large family that lost most of its belongings and two pets to a tragic fire that occurred Wednesday on Washington Street in Tamaqua.
Santa's sleigh, reindeer, and elves were replaced with police vehicles, fire trucks, police officers, firefighters and local volunteers.
Various charity organizations, police departments, local news media and churches came together within 24 hours of the fire to help the affected family, including eight children, rebound from the disaster.
On the day of the fire, police officers, Schuylkill County 911 dispatchers, and volunteers spent many hours buying, collecting, and wrapping presents for the family, then delivered hundreds of wrapped gifts, clothing, furniture and various donations during the day on Christmas Eve.
Michelle Valentine, mother, and David Valentine, father, and their children met Santa and all the volunteers with joyous smiles at the front door of their new home on West Rowe Street in Tamaqua.
In addition to the police, dispatchers and fire companies, other caring organizations that pulled together as one to help the Valentine family included the American Red Cross, Tamaqua Salvation Army, Tamaqua Girl Scouts, local churches, and many others.
Surrounding police departments, consisting of Tamaqua, Coaldale, Rush Township, and Kline Township, combined efforts only hours after the fire to organize a toy and donation drive for all the children.
Local businesses and individuals also promptly stepped up to help.
Tamaqua Police Chief Dave Mattson reportedly also provided $100 and toys for the family. Jeff Reigel of Reigel Fuel Oil LLC in Tamaqua, who was also one of the volunteer firefighters at the fire, has donated 100 gallons of fuel oil to the family.
The family's landlord provided an immediate new place to stay.
The Hometown Wal-Mart contributed gift cards. Many other people, organizations, and businesses also provided monetary, clothing, and other donations to the Tamaqua Salvation Army for the Valentine family.
A Salvation Army volunteer stated, "The immediate and immense outpour of donations and support for the Valentine family is truly a miracle of both community and God. Local news media, like the TIMES NEWS, also took a great part in helping the fire victims by quickly alerting the public of the tragedy and ways to help. Thank you tremendously for all the help in making the Valentines' Christmas a better one."
Monetary donations for the Valentine family, no matter how small, can be dropped off or mailed to the Tamaqua Salvation Army, 105 West Broad St, Tamaqua PA 18252. Put "Valentine Family, Dec. 23, 2009 Fire" in the comment line.
Monetary donations for any local family affected by fire can also be mailed to the Tamaqua Salvation Army.