On Tuesday December 19th, the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League hosted an “Elf Day” at the homeless shelter on Stock Island. Deputy Executive Director Elicia Pintabona partnered with Hervé Thomas of the Monroe County Firefighters Benevolent Association to wrap donated toys that were collected for Operation Irma Big Pine Key Santa Claus. The idea originated from the Irma Big Pine Key Facebook page which was created on September 10th of this year by Monroe County Firefighter Hervé Thomas. This page was created strictly for hurricane and recovery efforts related to Big Pine Key and adjacent islands.

In response to a growing number of people asking if something was going to be done for the kids, operation Irma Big Pine Key Santa Claus was originally intended to deliver toys to a few family who had been severely hit by Irma (lost houses, etc). The original plan was to serve 6 or 7 kids. A fund raiser was organized on the Facebook page by Mr. Thomas, and after a great response from the public, the reach of the project progressively grew from the original 3 families to 11 families, and from 6 children to 32 children!!! Elicia Pintabona saw an opportunity to help and offered the services of the SHAL staff and clients to wrap the donated gifts during an “Elf Day”. Present at Elf Day were Deputy Executive Director Elicia Pintabona, Case Managers Amy Yancich and Teresa Wallace, and Lead Monitor Chris Sparrow, along with over half a dozen clients that came to volunteer.

“Irma Big Pine Key Santa Delivery Tour” will be done aboard the “Santa’s Express” – a Monroe County Fire Rescue Engine specially assigned to this exceptional detail by Deputy Chief Steve Hudson. The Fire Engine will be driven and manned by Volunteers from the Monroe County Firefighters Benevolent Association, which was pivotal in the organization of this operation. Special thanks to Fire Chief Jim Callahan, Deputy Chief Steve Hudson, Battalion Chief David Sebben, Captain Andrea Thompson, Lieutenant Carlos Javier, Firefighters Hervé Thomas and Mary Napoli, and Volunteers Firefighters Sean Hemphill and Tim Farley.

SHAL would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy Holiday Season!!!! Keys Strong!