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Fire department taking back a timeless holiday tradition

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

A holiday tradition will come full circle in the City of Galax this year as the annual Community Christmas Chest project is passed back into the charge of the Galax Volunteer Fire Department.
Over the past 30 years, the fundraising project that puts together food boxes for the needy at Christmas, has been tended by the Galax Y’s Men Club, which has fostered a strong increase in community support. This year, the club has decided to give the project back to the organization that originally oversaw it.

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“The Galax Volunteer Fire Department has, for over a century, provided valuable services to our community,” said Galax Fire Chief David Hankley.  “Over 70 years ago, the department sponsored a Christmas event where citizens would bring in toys in need of repair, and the department members would fix them up and donate them to children who were less fortunate.”
Along with toys, the children were given apples, oranges and peppermint candy sticks as tasty treats. Their parents would also receive a care package with basic food supplies such as sugar, flour, potatoes and canned goods.
Since then, the citizens have helped several civic groups who have continued to head the effort over the years, including the Galax Jaycees Club and the Y’s Men Association.
In 1983, members of the Jaycees Club attended a meeting of the Galax Y’s Men and requested that the club take over the responsibility of the Christmas Chest. In its first year, the club’s goal was to raise $1,300 to feed 65 families.  
This year, that number is up to $30,000, which feeds 550 families, Hankley said.
“When I accepted the position of chairman of this project, I made it plain that I wanted the folks that only had a small amount of funds to give towards the project to be just as appreciated as the large donor,” said Gene Cox, Chairman of the Galax Y’s Men Community Christmas Chest.
“After experiencing the reactions of the individuals, including young children who gave what they could afford, I stand by my original thoughts. The goal was met every year because of the community being so supportive of the project.”
Hankley confirmed that the basic set-up of the project will remain the same. Radio-thons will be held and the community will be reminded to help out as much as it can with their donations. Announcements will be made to let the community know when and where boxes will be filled for local families.
The responsibility of the Community Christmas Chest will also be passed down to a new generation, as Charles Cox — Gene’s son and a volunteer firefighter — will lead as the new chairman for the project, said Hankley. Gene Cox will continue to help as an advisor.
“I believe that one of the reasons that the Galax Fire Department has maintained its 100 percent volunteer status for over 100 years is because one of the main qualities coursing through the veins of a volunteer fireman is to give back to his community, “ Hankley said.
“Whether it is through the fire service or through programs that support his fellow citizens, they are always willing to go the extra mile to offer any help in any way.”
The fire chief said the department looks forward to taking over the fund “and maintaining the efficiency and integrity that the Y’s Men Club has reached over its years of operation.”
Boxes are scheduled to be packed on Dec. 19 and delivered on Dec. 22 this year. Donations can be sent to
The Galax Community Christmas Chest, P.O. Box 330, Galax, VA 24333.