Every December, the Cosumnes Fire staff collaborates with the Elk Grove and Galt police departments to collect donated toys and deliver them to local families in need as part of the Toy Project.

In his speech during Cosumnes Fire’s change-of-command ceremony on Dec. 2, their new fire chief, Felipe Rodriguez, noted he was inspired by a toy drive organized by the San Francisco Fire Department 40 years ago. He mentioned the fire crew at Fire Station 15, near the City College of San Francisco.

“What may have been a simple Christmas toy drive to them, meant the world to me,” Rodriguez said. “We just never know who we might inspire.”

He later told Herburger staff about how the toy drive inspired him as a child to become a firefighter.

In 1980, Rodriguez’s family was experiencing financial challenges and his mother signed up her children to be a part of the San Francisco Fire Department’s Christmas toy program, which aids families in need. He returned to Station 15 to pick up their gifts and Rodriguez received a Nerf football for Christmas.

“I learned how to play football because of it,” Rodriguez recalled.

He said that it was during that Christmas when he decided to join the firefighting service.

“Since becoming a firefighter over two decades ago, I’ve been a part of ensuring we, as firefighters, give back to our community,” the fire chief said.

Last week, the Cosumnes Fire staff and the Elk Grove and Galt police departments organized a Santa & Sirens display at Cosumnes Fire’s training center in Elk Grove. More than 1,000 people visited the two-night attraction and many donated unwrapped gifts for the Toy Project.

“Having first-hand knowledge, I know that in a few weeks, some girl or boy will open a gift and have the biggest smile on their face,” Rodriguez said. “Who knows, 40 years from now, they may send the [newspaper] a similar story as the one I’m sending you today.”