Firefighter David Bell hopes the cans represent a small percentage of the items members of a local firefighters union will be able to give away this holiday season, but right now it’s all they have, he said.
“It’s just slow,” said Bell. “They’re starting to trickle in.”
The Jacksonville Professional Firefighters Association Local 3948 kicked off a canned food drive Nov. 1. Now the members are collecting food items at their department and the Jacksonville Community Center for Jacksonville’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s pantry bag program.
Attempts to reach Rev. Michael Rich, the pastor at St. Lukes were not successful Monday. An attempt to reach the Jacksonville Community Center for more information about the cans collected there also was unsuccessful Monday.
The effort is part of a larger push by the union members to become more involved in the community this year, Bell said.
“We protect the citizens of this community and kind of feel like we need to pay forward what we’re receiving back,” Bell said, referencing members’ gratitude for having jobs with the department.
In October, the firefighters sold T-shirts for breast cancer awareness month and collected about $700 for the Venecia Foundation, a local organization that creates care packages for cancer patients. And the organization will decide today whether it will host a “fill the boot” campaign to raise money for people who suffer from muscular dystrophy.
This is the organization's first canned food drive, but Bell and treasurer Jason Tiedemann said they think it will become an annual event.
The men said the organization advertised the drive by posting banners at the community center, on the city’s Public Square and at the department. He said they also asked to corporate sponsors for support.
None have offered to assist, though, because organizers, including Bell, still new to planning canned food drives, missed some deadlines. Bell said some companies do not participate in charitable events without six to eight weeks’ notice.
Firefighters have until Dec.10 to collect the items.
Bell said he hopes the food goes to help those people who have to choose between giving Christmas gifts to family members and eating healthy meals. And, he added, while each event the union has supported this year started slow, they all ended with a fair amount of participation.
“You see one person do something and then someone else follows them,” Bell said. “It’s been a movement.”
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.