For decades, folks in Charlotte could count on seeing the red canisters pop up at their favorite local business the Friday before Thanksgiving. The canisters served as the lifeblood of the Charlotte Fire Department’s Christmas Kiddies tradition — one that has existed for nearly 100 years in the community.

Times, though are changing. As fewer people pay for goods and services with cash, donations in those canisters have begun to dwindle. The need for the Christmas Kiddies program, however, has never been greater.

Seeking a new source for the community to show its support for the program and continue its generous support, the Fire Department has turned to crowd funding, an Internet-based fundraising platform continuing to grow in popularity. By visiting online, people can donate any amount desired using a credit or debit card. Donations can be anonymous or made in honor or memory of an individual.

The canisters will still go out this weekend, however, the site provides the department with another avenue to raise funds, said Assistant Chief Tyger Fullerton.

“My dad has always said, this is the purest form of charity there is,” Fullerton said, quoting his father, Kevin Fullerton, Charlotte’s Fire Chief. “Everything donated goes right back into the program.”

The department has set a goal of raising $20,000, which will help the program continue to serve close to 500 children on Christmas Eve. The program is run by the volunteer firefighters, which means there are no administrative costs associated with the program., however has a small service charge.

“The biggest thing for us is carrying on the tradition,” Tyger Fullerton said. “This is our Christmas Eve … every fireman has a part in it.”

All members of the Charlotte Fire Department take part in the program each year, sacrificing part of their Christmas Eve to spread a little joy to families in the area that could use a little holiday cheer. Delivery is split up through six different routes, each complete with Santa Claus, an honor the volunteer firefighters take very seriously.

Donations of toys can be dropped off at the Charlotte Fire Department at City Hall. Toys should be for either a boy or girl ranging from infant through age 13. Dean Transportation has planned a stuff the bus event for Friday, Nov. 28 at the Charlotte Wal-Mart to help provide toys for the Christmas Kiddies program this year.