THUNDER BAY - In one of their first acts as Thunder Bay Fire Rescue firefighters, new graduates were busy putting one of the most important aspects of their training into action – lending a caring hand to those who need it most.
“It’s a great first day on the job for me,” said Justin Grochowski, one of the newest Thunder Bay Fire Rescue firefighters. “The community always looks up to you and as firefighters especially we want to have positive image with the community and it’s a great way to have that image represented by the department.”
Grochowski, along with new Thunder Bay Fire Rescue members and seasoned members, were busy in the kitchen at the Salvation Army to serve up a delicious Thanksgiving Day meal to the community.
The annual dinner, which has been hosted by the Salvation Army with the help of the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association for the past 21 years, included seasonal staples like turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and of course, a choice of apple pie or pumpkin pie for desert.
“It’s one of our favourite days here,” said Anne Antenucci, a community engagement assistant with the Salvation Army. “We allow the community to come in, we don’t ask any questions, we simply open our doors and say welcome.”
The annual meal usually sees more than 300 people taking in some good food and some good company.
“Everyone is happy, everyone is thankful, everyone really enjoys sitting together having a great smelling, great tasting home cooked meal,” Antenucci said. “Some people just don’t have the money or don’t have anyone to have thanksgiving with, so we just open our doors and welcome anyone in to sit down and have a meal.”
More than 20 firefighters and family members have been busy in the kitchen for the last three days preparing the meal along with Salvation Army staff. And they were even busier on Sunday dishing out and serving plateful after plateful.
“It’s a good way to give back to the community, get the members and their families an opportunity to come out and serve to the people who need it most,” said Kevin Anderson with the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association.
“The firefighters are so wonderful,” Antenucci added. “They love the Salvation Army. One of our mandates is if there is a major event in Thunder Bay, we will take the soup van and we will help take care of the first responders. So anytime we need their help, they are always right there to help us.”
Anderson said as first responders, firefighters often deal with people when they are at their most vulnerable, so it is not only important to help in an emergency, but also make them feel welcomed and like a part of the community.
This is something that the new recruits are taught during their training and they were all busy doing their part to help out the team and help out the community they serve.
“They came on Friday and peeled all the potatoes and some have come back today that were available, so right from the get go they are involved,” Anderson said.
All those who help out are off duty and volunteering their time, but for Grochowski and his fellow graduates, helping others is what the job is all about, no matter when or where, and sometimes it's as simple as preparing a warm meal and serving it with a smile.
“We’re all passionate people about this,” he said. “It’s really important to help others, not only on shift, but also off shift and giving back to the community is a great way to do it like this.”