Raymond Meshke gets on the back of the wagon with Santa before a ride is about to begin during the Silvana Fire District's "Santa Open House" held as the final day of their Santa Run on Dec. 15.


The Silvana Fire District capped off their Santa Run by hosting a "Santa Open House" with wagon rides, photos with Santa and local firefighters on Dec. 15.

The district's Santa Run was held on Dec. 7, 8 and 14 through several of Silvana's neighborhoods.

Firefighters take a decorated fire engine around the community with Santa and collect food for the Arlington Community Food Bank.

The Santa Open House at Station 95 is meant give families that are not part of those areas a chance to see Santa and local firefighters.

"We try to pick out our districts where we have the most people and hit those neighborhoods. We can't go to the whole district because we simply couldn't do that," said Darlene Strotz, who is retired from the fire district, but worked there 32 years and still helps with a variety of their programs.

Families can have a wagon ride with Santa and bring in donations for the food bank.

"It's fun to do. We can donate some food for the food bank, which is nice, and then you get a picture with Santa," said local parent Richard Meshke.

"My son loves the tractor ride and the lights, so that's always nice. He's pretty anxious and wants to go right now," he said.

This year's Santa Run collected a good deal of food, said Strotz.

"This is the fourth night we've been out and we can't believe the amount of food we've collected," she said.

Last year the fire district collected 1,132 pounds of food and about $450 in cash donations. "And I know that we'll do more than that this year," she said.

Strotz said that the community likes the Santa Run because they enjoy being able to help others out.

"There's a lot of people out there that really need some help and this is a way to make their Christmas a little better. If we can collect some food that they will eventually pick up, well that's what our mission is," she said.

The fire district has held the event for about five years, said Strotz.

"We just want to do it because it's fun to do and people enjoy it," she said. "It puts everyone in the Christmas mood."

Her favorite part is seeing the families greet Santa and the Silvana firefighters as they come in.

"I like seeing the people that are waiting for us along the side of the road, waiting to meet Santa, and they all have bags of food to give us and they say 'merry Christmas' to us," she said.

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