Tillsonburg Firefighter Association donated $2,500 to the Helping Hand Food Bank on Dec. 12 during the first weekend of the food bank’s drive-thru 12 Days of Giving food drive.
Last year, the firefighters – supported by dispatchers –sponsored six families for Christmas, purchasing toys, clothing, food, and necessities, a tradition they started in 2015. This year they decided to donate funds to the local food bank.
“A good portion of it comes from the (September) Steak Barbecue fundraiser,” said firefighter Ted Sanders, noting they also receive donations from the community, “which, due to COVID-19 concerns we were unable to do this year. So our funding to support the community this year has been brought over from last year’s funds.”
When they sponsored families for Christmas, firefighters and dispatchers and their families would gather to shop at a local department store, then a local grocery store. Under present COVID-19 conditions, that was not possible.
“The decision was made to limit the amount of exposure that the firefighters have to the community – and to each other – because we are vital to the community and limiting that exposure is healthy for everyone, because we need to have firefighters,” said Sanders.
Limiting exposure to the community has been difficult, he noted, with less in-person public relations, and fewer food drives.
“Our community is where we – firefighters and dispatchers – want to be,” said Sanders. “It makes us sad, but it’s unfortunately necessary in the time that we’re in. That’s just the way it is.”
“There’s nothing better than watching people’s faces when you walk in with all that (Christmas hamper) stuff in any other year,” said Dean Townsend, vice-president of the Tillsonburg Firefighters Association. “There’s nothing like seeing those smiles, knowing that they can have a Christmas.”
“It was a tough decision, but we felt the best way to actually help the community this year was to support the local food bank,” said Sanders. “Because that’s where the most need is in the community right now. So we just bundled it all up and said, ‘that’s where it’s going to go.’”