Over 20 years ago, a woman knocked on the door of Davis Fire Station 31 and asked for assistance to make a Thanksgiving dinner for her children. The firefighters pooled funds and bought a turkey for her and began to think about expanding their contribution.
The firefighters’ gift of a single turkey has since expanded into the annual Davis Firefighter’s Union Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, which provides 630 full Thanksgiving meal baskets for Davis needy families.
The baskets, which cost about $22 apiece, include a 14-pound turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams and juice – enough food to feed a family of four to six people, said Marty Eckhardt, secretary for the Davis Firefighter’s Union.
The Union purchases the baskets with community donations and a $5,000 contribution by Davis Waste Removal. To reach their annual fundraising goal – about $13,000 this year – off-duty firefighters collect donations in “Fill-the-Boot” fundraisers.
People will often donate $20 or even $100 bills, said Steve Phillips, a Davis firefighter who participated in a “Fill-the-Boot” fundraiser, held on the corner of B Street and Russell Boulevard on Nov. 20.
The firefighters conducted two “Fill-the-Boot” campaigns this November, as the first did not yield enough funds. As of Nov. 21, the Union still needed an additional $1,000 to reach their fundraising goal and cover the full cost of the 630 baskets.
In the event that this goal is not met, the Union will cover the difference, Phillips said.
Recipients of the baskets sign up at Fire Station 31, and are determined on a first-come, first-served basis. The Basket Program also works with other Davis organizations such as Davis Community Meals and the Davis Community Clinic to locate recipients.
“[There is a] bigger need this year than ever.… We are hoping to meet that need,” Eckhardt said.
The food is purchased at the South Davis Safeway, and off-duty firefighters and their families assemble the baskets the day before Thanksgiving. This year, the baskets will be distributed on Nov. 26 at Station 31.
This is part of what we do as a Union, said Dan Wong, a Davis firefighter.
The Davis Firefighter’s Union is still accepting monetary donations for this year’s Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, and welcomes donations throughout the year. Checks can be made payable to Davis Firefighter’s Union Local 3494, and can be dropped off at Station 31.
“[This is an opportunity to] help people who are less fortunate,” Phillips said. “To see their thanks is a good feeling.”
SARA JOHNSON can be reached at email@example.com.