FIRE Fighters




Each year, as part of the IFD Clothe-A-Child program, children in need of assistance are assigned an IFD Firefighter who helps them shop for a warm coat, clothes for school and new shoes for winter. They, along with their families, eat breakfast together (cooked by firemen), shop for clothes and get to meet Santa.

The Clothe-A-Child program is funded by donations through gifts with the Fill the Bell Program, which firefighters  conduct in December. Fill the Bell helps to fund the next years Clothe-A-child event. IFD says firefighters can be found "standing the bell" at both at Circle Center Mall (3rd Floor) and Castleton Square Mall (Macy's) from 10 am to 8 pm daily. IFD asks community members to please stop by and say hello to your IFD Firefighters and help next year's children with your spare change.


It all started with the only 1 cent newspaper in the State of Indiana, The Indianapolis Times.   Originally named The Sun and founded in 1888 – the paper changed hands several times over the course of  its run with each owner renaming the paper.   During its first 34 years the paper was called The Sun, The Indianapolis Sun, The Indiana Daily Times and finally the Indianapolis Times in 1922.   With a circulation of 89,374 and 101, 000 on Sundays – The Indianapolis Times was known for its “crusading” journalism, winning a Pulitzer prize for its expose about the corrupt and heinous Klu Klux Klan.  Other scandals reported included corruption in the state highway fund, voter fraud and falsely reported crime statistics.   But it’s mission wasn’t always about such ugly events happening in our city.  On the positive side – it allowed four-thousand out of work Hoosiers to find jobs by publishing free employment ads and pushed for better lunches in schools through the use of federal programs.   In 1930 the Times began advocating for children’s needs, raising money for those children affected by the Great Depression.  Such became The Indianapolis Times Clothe-A-Child campaign.  Each December, before Christmas, children were matched with donors who would take the child shopping for a new set of winter clothing. Items included a suit, hat, gloves, shoes, socks, shirts and underwear.  The list remains relatively the same today.  In its first year, Clothe-A-Child outfitted 422 children, many of whom lived in Hooverville and Curtisville along the White River.  

On December 13, 1933 the first Indianapolis Mile of Dimes (later Mile-O-Dimes) was established on the sidewalks at Meridian St. and Washington St. in front of the L.S. Ayres and S.S. Kresge stores.  Instead of strictly taking large cash donations, the Mile-O-Dimes was a fun and visual way for everyone to donate – something.  The goal was to lay dimes side by side in as many 100 foot rows as possible, before Christmas Eve. Sidewalk Santa was present to encourage donations and smiles…. for those who couldn’t afford to donate but wanted to see the dimes.  During the month of December, police officers and plainclothes security men from Brinks – guarded the dimes 24/7 until Christmas Eve when they were swept, collected, washed, counted and deposited into Merchants National Bank.  That first year, Mile-O-Dimes brought a total of $3,207 to the Clothe-A-Child campaign and helped double the amount of kids clothed.  The program would enjoy its greatest success from 1946-1959 when members of the Firemen’s Post #42 of the American Legion assumed responsibility of the dimes and stood watch 24/7.  Firefighters, on their day off, stood proudly in the freezing rain, snow and cold, as they rang the bell to encourage donations.  Shoppers brought dimes and often other coins to line the sidewalks and say hello to their local firemen.  In 1946, Mile-O-Dimes contributed $10,383.70 to the Clothe-A-Child program.  In 1947 they raised $12,940.00 of the total $45,000 needed to fund the Clothe-A-Child campaign.  Did you know it takes 89,872 dimes, laid end to end, to make one mile?? 

But…. the Indianapolis Times Clothe-A-Child campaign was only one of 15 fundraising groups in Indianapolis. As is still true today - with fundraising – the charities were all competing for the same dollars and there was only so much to go around.  The groups began to get out of their lane – and into someone else’s – as they jockeyed for money.  This, causing strife, at a time when help was desperately needed within our community.  On Valentine’s Day 1957, twenty-six community leaders met at the request of Eli Lilly to try and solve the fundraising problem.  Two-weeks of discussion followed and the United Fund was created.   15 social service agencies in Indy were asked to join the United Fund with the idea that money would be raised under one umbrella and distributed amongst 47 social service agencies in Marion County.  It’s first campaign netted $3,817,000 dollars.  The 15 included, American Red Cross, American Heart Assn, Noble School, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Marion County Cancer, Indianapolis Diabetes Assn, United Cerebral Palsy and the Times Clothe-A-Child program just to name a few.  By year two the 47 benefitting agencies grew to 71 and each group was allocated a smaller portion.  In 1960 the Times ceased the popular Mile-O-Dimes campaign and on October 11,1965 the Indianapolis Times ceased publication.  However, the tradition of the Clothe-A-Child program was now deeply embedded in IFD’s history and true to form, we had to do something.  Circa 1965, IFD  began the Fill-The-Bell to Clothe-A-Child campaign on the same sidewalk Mile-O-Dimes began….and has been a tradition of giving for last 70 years in Indianapolis and on the IFD. 

Throughout the years Fill-The-Bell to Clothe-A-Child has seen many changes, including the most appreciated – taking the drive indoors.  An inverted bell used as the collection point outside, has now been replaced by a handmade fire truck and candy canes.  Sponsors such as Enterprise Leasing (buses), Meijer, Darling Ingredients, Sears, Simon Malls, Capitol City Containers and most importantly Local 416 - have not only clothed 45 children a year but helped enlarge the program to include providing an average of 100 Turkeys during Thanksgiving, Food Boxes with full meals during Christmas, donations to local food pantries, back to school donations of backpacks/ school supplies and assisting area churches with the many needs in their congregation.  The expanded reach into all areas of the community is the greatest gift of all. The giving and receiving is appreciated by both the firefighters and the 300 families it touches every year.


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