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Santa visited White Oak neighborhoods on the night before Christmas, courtesy of the borough’s two volunteer fire departments. Although many Mon-Yough communities give Santa a lift during December, White Oak officials think the community is one of only a few that holds the event on the night of Dec. 24. (Submitted photo)
On Christmas Eve, two local volunteer fire departments — Rainbow Volunteer Fire Company and White Oak Volunteer Fire Company #1 — celebrated the holidays by visiting neighborhoods in White Oak. Riding the back of fire trucks, Santa Claus waved and handed out candy canes.
Brandon Schmidt is the fire chief of Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., located on Jacks Run Road, and has been an official member for 20 years. Most of his family, including his parents and brother, have also been affiliated with the organization. Currently, there are 42 active members of the company.
Schmidt expressed his excitement over the Christmas Eve tradition. Although many fire departments in Western Pennsylvania give Santa a ride through the community each holiday season, Schmidt said the White Oak departments are one of the few that do it on the night before Christmas, “to the best of my knowledge.”
Borough firefighters sacrifice in order to keep alive the tradition, which has been around between 40 and 50 years, Schmidt said.
“Our families have moved their schedules around for this event,” he said. “I’m very proud of our members for continuing to do this.”
The firefighters were especially excited for the event because of the social interactions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they still took Santa on the truck, but they could not stop at houses for cookies or take pictures.
“We’re looking forward to interact with people,” Schmidt said. “People in White Oak love it, and it’s a big thing in the community.”
Before the event, Schmidt explained that both children and adults love seeing Santa equally and look forward to it each year. The event took place at 5 p.m. and lasted between three and four hours.
Originally, Santa’s trip was done only with Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., but then White Oak Volunteer Fire Co. #1 stepped in to help.
“We coordinate with each other on the maps,” Schmidt said. “We now have three to four units with a Santa on each of them.”
Schmidt talked about how much he appreciated this event, which has been embraced in White Oak.
“My favorite part is getting to spend time with the firefighters, especially during the holidays,” Schmidt said. “We are very happy to do it. We take time from our blood families to be with our firefighting families. And the community is really good to us.”
Elizabeth Laughlin is a freelance writer and a doctoral student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate assistant who runs the department newsletter and writes for a digital project. She writes for Modern Language Studies, and her short story, "Twenty-Seven," is being published in their journal.
Originally published December 27, 2022.