Santa rides on a wagon during this year's socially distanced Arlington Santa Run on Dec. 4.


Santa is again partnering with local firefighters to visit Arlington neighborhoods to gather food for the Arlington Community Food Bank this year.

The local firefighter's union continues with their annual Santa Run, however it will include new safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Santa Run began on Dec. 4 and will continue until Dec. 13.

People who wish to donate food are being asked to leave the food at the end of the driveway and those who want to donate money are being asked to go directly to the Arlington Community Food Bank website.

Santa is still riding around for families, however he is not handing out candy canes and will stay in a decorated trailer and wave to local families.

Organizers had to put in a lot of work to create a safe plan for this year.

"We had a plan in place before the Governor put new restrictions, and then we came up with a new plan," said Nich Sacha, an Arlington firefighter and the main organizer for this year's event.

"It was challenging. We usually get a bunch of our family members to come out to help volunteer," however this year there is a limit to how many volunteers could be involved.

Greg Koontz, a captain with the Arlington Fire Department and president of IAFF 3728, the Arlington firefighters union, said the union still wanted to collect for the food bank this year due to the high need.

"We thought it was important to attempt to continue this if we thought we could do it safely," he said. "With the amount of people needing food this year we thought that if we could make it happen it was imperative we do it again this year."

He hopes that local families will cooperate with safety measures this year.

"We're just asking the public to be compliant with what we are asking with setting the food down and social distancing," Koontz said.

This year, the firefighters' annual Arlington Santa Run is in its 28th year.

"This is a fun thing. As a newer employee of the fire department, to have this tradition go on for this long and still keep going is pretty amazing," said Sacha.

Koontz said there are many Arlington residents who look forward to it.

"We have people who have liv3ed in Arlington 25 years or more and they know this is coming and are always out there," he said.

Many of the firefighters enjoy volunteering to help each year.

"I think it's amazing when you see the little kids," said Koontz. "They 100 percent think it's real and there's this smile on their face."

Arlington Fire Department captain Jason Nyblod also said he enjoys volunteering for the event. "I like just spreading joy and seeing all the people come out and pitch in," he said. "It kind of sucks this year not giving candy canes out because the kids love that part, but the community still loves this."

The local firefighter's union pays for the decorations and brings in the majority of volunteers.

"We're part of this community. The union has a very philanthropic approach to what we do in this community," said Koontz.

Sacha wanted to thank all everyone who help put on the annual event to benefit the food bank.

"A big thanks to everyone in our local who volunteered their time to put it together and the city," he said.


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