Firefighters in Maple Ridge will be taking off their boots for a good cause this holiday season.
Around 50 firefighters will be taking part in the annual event – collecting cash donations; non-perishable food donations; and new, unwrapped toy donations – to benefit both the Friends In Need Food Bank and the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.
The event started twenty years ago in 2002, explained Captain Chris McKee with Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue, with dozens of firefighters in front of grocery stores throughout Maple Ridge.
This year not only will firefighters be out raising money, but also members of the Youth Academy and volunteers from the food bank and Christmas hamper society, who will be participating as well. They will be located in front of all three Save-On-Foods locations, No Frills Supermarket, FreshCo, and Walmart.
“We did have a short break due to COVID, but were back last year,” explained McKee, adding that they were able to raise more than $15,000.
Mary Robson, executive director of the Friends In Need Food Bank, said the firefighters’ support and efforts are much appreciated and needed now, more than ever.
“The Friends in Need has seen an increase in new registrations and renewal of registrations of families who have not needed its services for some time. With the current rate of inflation and the increase in the cost of living, families cannot make ends meet. We are here to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry and we thank the firefighters for helping us with our mission,” said Robson.
Robson noted that when food is handed out on Monday nights they were serving only 12 families until this past year. Since then the food bank has seen a steady increase of those requiring their services.
This past Monday, Nov. 21, 33 families were served by the charity.
“Since June we have had more than 135 new families register. That is about a 20 per cent increase for both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows,” noted Robson.
Firefighters from the Pitt Meadows fire department will be at the Save-On-Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks, and at the Meadowtown Centre they will be in front of Superstore, the BC Liquor Store, and Tim Horton’s.
About 25 firefighters will be taking part in Pitt Meadows, a combination of staff and paid on call members, explained deputy fire chief David Biggin.
They will also have four or five of their long time honourary, retired members join them for this year’s charity drive.
“This fundraiser is special because we are joined at each station by a member from the Lions, a member from the Cadets, a member or two from the Friends in Need Food Bank, and the Ridge Meadows Christmas Hamper Society,” explained Biggin.
And, he said, most years some members of council or the mayor will stop in at each location to join the fun. This year, for the first time, Ridge Meadows RCMP will be joining in and spearheading the TOY drive with a cruiser located at Superstore – and if staffing permits at the Save-On-Foods as well – for people to “cram” with toys.
All cash donations will be split between the Christmas Hamper Society and the food bank, non-perishable food will go to the food bank, and toys to the hamper, said Biggin.
Last year the Pitt Meadows department raised $11,362, in addition to 860 lbs of food.
“This is an important and special day for our firefighters to meet people in our community and share their time to be a part of the generosity during the holiday season. This is evident by the high attendance of members volunteering their day for the cause,” said Biggin.
Firefighters from both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will make cheque presentations to both of the charities the following week when the Canadian Pacific Christmas Train comes to town on Dec. 17.
The Maple Ridge fire department’s boot drive will take place from 10- 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, the Pitt Meadows drive will take place from 10-3:30 p.m. on the same day.
“Maple Ridge firefighters always appreciate the support we receive whenever we’re out in this generous community. We often see firsthand the tangible impact on lives that these charities make. For that reason we enjoy putting on this campaign,” added McKee.
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