For the past two weeks, Davis Firefighters Local 3494 (Local 3494) stood on traffic partitions at the 5th street intersection near Central Park with empty firefighter boots and signs asking passersby to donate money to fund their Thanksgiving basket drive. This year, however, the firefighters experienced a shortfall in donations and had to supplement their budget with a second fill-the-boot fundraiser.
Local 3494 has given away baskets filled with the necessities for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for those in need for the past 28 years.
“We’ve never had to turn anyone away and I’m hoping the same for this year. There have been years where it’s been pretty close. Right at the end there were one or two families left and the firefighters all reached into their pockets and we were able to get the food for those families as well,” said Bobby Weist, president of Local 3494.
Although Weist was unsure of the number of baskets the firefighters were planning on distributing this year, in previous years they have given out between 750-800 baskets.
Each basket typically cost the firefighters $20-$25. This buys each family a 12-15 pound turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and biscuits.
“Like everything else, the price of food has really gone up the past few years,” said Weist.
To help cover the cost of the baskets in addition to the money raised from the fill-the-boot fundraiser, local businesses have made contributions to the cause. Davis Waste Removal and Dos Coyotes have made sizable monetary donations. Safeway provided a lot of the food for the baskets for a discounted price and Whole Foods donated $1,800 in side dishes.
According to Luis Parrilla of Local 3494, the group has raised a total of $13,500, however the cost of all of the baskets is predicted to be $15,000 as reported by the Davis Enterprise.
In addition to providing side dishes for the baskets, Whole Foods will also be providing Thanksgiving dinner for the on-duty officers on Thanksgiving Day.
“It was really important to us that they have a nice holiday as well,” said Lauren Routh, marketing and community relations team leader of Whole Foods.
This year, Whole Foods reached out to the Davis Fire Department to partner with them in the holiday season.
“We didn’t even know about it, it was a bit of a last minute reaching out, but hopefully we can work with some of our vendors to get full donations [next year] because we know this is a big monetary constraint for the firefighters,” Routh said.
Safeway is a large provider of the food for the Thanksgiving baskets, delivering ten pallets of food to the firefighters for assembly into baskets.
“We truly appreciate the work of our firefighters and the opportunity to support their great work in the community,” said Keith Turner, director of public and government affairs for Safeway.
The firefighters don’t advertise their baskets; people find out by word of mouth and come from all over the county to receive one. Nothing pre-qualifies the recipients of the Thanksgiving baskets — all they have to do is call in advance to put their name on a list.
The tradition began in 1986 when a young woman and her baby came to the firehouse inquiring where they could get a Thanksgiving dinner. At the time no service of the sort was being provided to the community so the Davis firefighters stepped up to the plate.
“Ws there’s a need we’re going to try and fill that,” Weist said.
Local 3494 takes donations all year for this cause and all proceeds go to filling the baskets. Weist said that if there is rollover it will go towards the baskets for the next year, however they have never had rollover funds.
All donations can be sent to P.O. Box 896 Davis, CA 95617 or dropped off at any of the Davis firehouses.