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Josh Kleinbaum While most of the city slept early...

December 25, 2004

Josh Kleinbaum

While most of the city slept early Friday morning, taking advantage

of a day off of work or school on Christmas Eve, Kelly Chulick

surveyed the five large boxes filled with toys in the lobby of Fire

Station 11. Then he started stuffing the toys into the back of his

van.

One day before Christmas and fresh off of an overnight shift, the

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Burbank firefighter played Santa Claus.

"They call me Santa Claus on Wheels," said Chulick, who has

organized the Burbank Fire Dept.'s Spark of Love Toy Drive for the

past six years. "This is one of those days I do feel like Santa

Claus. I know that these toys are going to be going to someone on

Christmas tomorrow."

Throughout December, the Burbank Fire Dept. has large toy donation

boxes at each of its six stations, so residents can drop off toys.

Every few weeks, Chulick goes around and collects the toys. He

estimates that he's collected $25,000 to $35,000 worth of toys this

month.

With the pace of donations increasing as Christmas approaches,

Chulick has had to make two collection runs in the last three days.

On Wednesday, Chulick brought toys to Burbank Family Aid. Friday,

he delivered toys to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, which turned

the old Lockheed building into Santa's Workshop. Families who qualify

for the toys can walk through the workshop and choose which ones they

want as late as Friday morning.

"A lot of people come in at the last moment, freaked out that they

haven't gotten it together," said Edward Stapleton, the Temporary Aid

Center's pantry manager. "If we have toys left over, we save it for

next year."

The families must live in Burbank and not be able to afford toys

on their own. Stapleton said the Temporary Aid Center gave toys to

about 300 families, including about 1,000 children.

For Chulick, the Spark of Love has become an annual ritual. His

two children are in their 20s and have long outgrown toys. But he

always tries to deflect attention from himself.

"It's a good community," Chulick said. "Burbank is very, very

generous."

Fire departments from five Southern California counties hold a toy

drive for the Spark of Love. Each department donates all of the toys

collected to its own community.

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