Spring Hill firefighter Chris Jackson has the heart of a server, which is why he’s a firefighter.
However, he is also one to go the extra mile serving and improving the Spring Hill community in which he works. That became evident in 2018, when the Franklin native and father of two borrowed a longtime Franklin Fire Department tradition — the Christmas toy drive — and started a Spring Hill tradition of bringing Christmas joy to families going through difficult times.
Jackson approached David L. Edge III a member of the Franklin Fire Department and president of the local firefighters union, for guidance and advise.
“He was more than willing to help out with information and organization,” Jackson said. “Franklin (Fire Department) is the model to use for this."
Jackson and his band of firefighting elves presented their idea to the Spring Hill Boys and Girls Club and Kathy Cook with the Pregnancy Center of Spring Hill & Columbia the first week in October.
“Kathy has a wealth of knowledge and volunteers,” Jackson said. “Miss Kathy was so driven. It all went better than I expected.”
GraceWorks Ministries also agreed to help. Six weeks later, plans were completed, volunteer elf contacts and sponsors were lined up and Santa’s helpers were ready to roll.
The needs and wants of 30 children were put on tags, which were attached to a board in the shape of a fire hydrant.
“Each child had five tags — one for a jacket, one for shoes and three toy tags,” he said. “People could pull one or all five tags.”
Within 24 hours, all the tags were gone.
Then the gifts began coming in. People who didn’t pull tags donated.
“The outpouring of help was incredible,” Jackson said. “Jackets, shoes and toys filled half the training room. We received so many toys we had some left over. It was a whirlwind from Black Friday until the week before Christmas.”
Several women wrapped the gifts, which were delivered to the families in time for Christmas. The week before Christmas, families of the children who had tags were treated to a special Christmas dinner, provided by Longhorn Steakhouse, and Santa Claus dropped by for a visit.
A family with three children who weren’t on the list showed up.
“We were surprised, but we had enough for the kids,” Jackson said. “A couple women ran upstairs, pulled some toys together and wrapped them."
Those children had a nice Christmas.
The remaining toys were taken to local churches that had leads to families in need.
“We have plans to grow (the program) gradually and keep a handle on it,” he said.
One thing they did learn? Start earlier. Plans are ready to go right after school starts, so they can get schools involved.
Exhilarated by the success of the toy drive, Jackson received another surprise when he was chosen by the battalion chiefs and named by Chief Terry Hood to be Spring Hill’s Firefighter of the Year.
“It was during a firefighters Christmas party at Titos in Spring Hill,” he said. “I was on a shift, but I stopped by with a few guys. They took me by surprise and then I turned and saw my wife sitting there. I had no idea. This is such an honor to be recognized.”
Chris Jackson didn’t know he wanted to be a firefighter until a friend joined the Williamson County Rescue Squad when they were still in high school. The friend moved into Station 23 and went to work recruiting Jackson to join the rescue squad.
“He told me, ‘Just put the gear on,’” Jackson said. “Once I put the gear on, I knew that was my thing.”
When Jackson graduated from high school, he took a few years doing odd jobs and working in the family remodeling business.
“I waded through life,” he said.
He finally went to school to get his EMT certification and became a volunteer with the rescue squad. Jackson got a part-time position with the Spring Hill Fire Department in August 2011. Three months later, on Nov. 11, 2011, Jackson started with the department full time.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
He’s now working on his engineer certification.