ROXBURY, NJ - When they came up with the idea to have Santa on a firetruck deliver gifts to kids, the firefighters at Roxbury Fire Station #1 had modest expectations. It was a quirky idea, one they hoped would raise a few bucks for the firehouse while making a couple of children happy.

So if you see a member of Fire Station #1 standing with his jaw open, looking a bit dazed, try to be understanding. The little plan has blossomed into an unanticipated holiday extravaganza and, more importantly, a demonstration of Roxbury generosity.

"We expected to raise a little money for the firehouse, obviously," said Roxbury Fireman's Association Vice-President Michael Kovach. "But the focus shifted after the first large donation by our anonymous donor."

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He was referring to a donation of $500 to the firehouse from a fellow who wanted to remain unidentified. When advised that the program required parents to buy the gifts that Santa would deliver on the firetruck, the man augmented his donation with $250 in Toys "R" Us gift certificates. He asked that the $25 certificates be reserved for needy children. 

As if that wasn't enough, the fellow subsequently threw in another $850 worth of Toys "R" Us gift cards. Simultaneously, another person gave the Fire Station $500 more in gift cards, said Kovach. Meanwhile, 12 families signed up to give the firehouse $50 each in return for delivery, by Santa, of gifts supplied by parents.

But that's not all. Some corporations are getting into the act, Kovach said. Although the amount is "yet to be determined," Marshall's has pledged to donate toys on Dec. 19 and Verizon has agreed to match employee contributions to the firehouse's effort, said Kovach.

"The whole thing started as a fundraiser for us but it's made a 180-degree shift," he said. "It's morphed into something much, much bigger."

So far, Roxbury Social Services has identified 44 township families that meet undisclosed criteria qualifying them to have toys (or gift cards) delivered to their kids by the firetruck-riding Santa. Kovach noted that, due to pride or other concerns, some of those families might opt out of participating. He said families desiring anonymity can pick up donated gifts at the Social Services office.

To date, the endeavor has raised $1,100 for the firehouse, and the good news might just be starting. Kovach said some big media types, inluding News 12 New Jersey, are planning visits to Roxbury in the coming days to do stories about the program. As he just found out, a lot can happen in a week.