Some off-duty city firefighters turned into cooks and servers to help with the Salvation Army's largest fall feast in years.
Members of the Thunder Bay Firefighters Association and their families volunteered their Sunday afternoons in support of the Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, as they helped to serve more than 300 meals.
Kevin Anderson is a firefighter that has helped out with the dinner for years, and said it is a valuable opportunity for them to bond together and bring their families to help give back.
“We encourage firefighters to bring their families along. They can get their volunteer hours and learn how important it is to give back to the community,” Anderson said.
“Poverty is growing in Thunder Bay, so they need to know to work harder and to give back when they can.”
One example of the family influence came from the Patterson family.
Mackenzie Patterson, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Westgate, volunteered along with her firefighter father, as well as her mother and older brother.
“I think it’s a great opportunity and everybody is so helpful and nice,” Patterson said, and noted it was her first time helping out with the dinner.
“I didn’t realize how big it was, or how big it was in the community.”
Volunteers have been busy in the days leading up to the dinner, as they have worked diligently to prepare the meals and then were busy serving the fare on Sunday.
The hall at the Salvation Army shelter was filled to capacity within minutes of opening, and a line quickly formed waiting for a seat at one of the tables.
Thunder Bay Salvation Army executive director Maj. Rob Kerr said the number of people ultimately surpassed their expectations, and Anderson added it was one of the busiest that he has ever helped with.
The dinner is one of a few planned this weekend for the less fortunate, as the demand for assistance appears to be growing.
However, the event would not be possible without the support of volunteers.
Kerr explained that in addition to the volunteer force, the dinner receives a tremendous amount of operating support from the local firefighters.
“It takes a bit of work to put something like this on,” Kerr said. “We met with the firefighters earlier to coordinate and they supply all the food so we met to talk about they would order and buy. They supply all the funds for this.”
The dinner marked Kerr’s first in the city as he only took his position in July, and he said he has been overwhelmed by the support from the firefighters.
Anderson explained the firefighters feel like helping put on dinners like this one are a small way for them to show their gratitude for the community they serve.
“As firefighters we’re fortunate for our jobs, so it’s a small way to give back to the community. It makes us feel really good,” he described.
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