With the holiday season considered a time of giving, the Conway Firefighters Association Local 4016 hopes to give area children and families in need something to celebrate this season with its annual Fill the Boot campaign.

Firefighters and volunteers will be out holding boots and taking donations beginning this weekend and will continue through December. Firefighters will be at several locations around the county, including Conway Commons, Conway Towne Center, the Vilonia four-way, Kroger on Salem Road and Hastings/First Community Bank today from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Boots can also be found at several area banks and businesses. The business that raises the most money for Fill the Boot will receive a bronze boot to display until next year’s campaign.

Funds raised during Fill the Boot provide toys and clothes to children and food baskets to families in need around the county.

"Every penny goes toward the need," Local 4016 Vice President Billie Carter said. "We start with nothing, and we end with nothing."

Fill the Boot in Faulkner County began in the fall of 1998. Area firefighters raised $1,732 that year and provided food baskets and toys to 32 families.

The annual campaign has grown tremendously over the last 12 years and saw a record-setting year in 2009.

With the addition of the Vilonia Fire Department and a new collection location in Vilonia, Fill the Boot raised $46,000 and helped over 1,000 children throughout Conway and Faulkner County. 

Fill the Boot usually provides food baskets to around 250 families and gives toys and clothes to about 1,000 children. This year, area dental offices are donating dental care supplies to be given to the children, as well.

Since its inaugural year, Fill the Boot has raised over $254,000 and touched the lives of over 8,000 children and their families.

Even after 12 years, local firefighters still look forward to the annual campaign.

"Once these guys do this, they’re hooked for life," Carter said. "Firemen always want to help people. It’s just something we do, because it’s the right thing to do."

Although he acknowledged the hard work put in by area firefighters, Carter said the success of Fill the Boot would not be possible without the help of the community.

"We’re just the middle men," Carter said. "None of this would be possible without the generosity of the Faulkner County residents."

In addition to collection monetary donations, Fill the Boot will also have toy drop off locations at Salon Cortilo, We’ve Got Spirit and Edward Jones Office of Jerry Borden.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Edward Jones Office of Jerry Borden on Dec. 11 to greet residents and have their pictures made.

Carter said while new toys are preferred, Fill the Boot will accept all toys that are donated.

Residents can also send checks to Conway Firefighters Fill the Boot at P.O. Box 2367, Conway AR 72033.

(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at stephanie.fischer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)