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Fire Department distributes 20 Thanksgiving baskets
Private Stephen Veresko from Engine 3 packs up the car for a representative from the district, who brought the baskets to the school for distribution.

Each year, the Johnston Fire Department mobilizes its ranks to collect food and monetary donations in order to assemble Thanksgiving baskets for area families in need. With the help of community members who dropped off non-perishable food items, the department was able to put together 20 baskets.

“I was so excited that we were able to do that,” said Rescue Captain Cherra Wheeler, who coordinated the event.

Baffoni’s Poultry Farm donated a turkey for one of the 20 families, and the remaining families received Stop & Shop gift cards so they could purchase a turkey on their own. Money for the gift cards came from area businesses, including Jackie’s Galaxie, Luigi’s, Expresso’s, This Guy’s Pizza and Father & Sons Deli. Most of the items came right from Johnston firefighters.

“Most of it comes from in-house. We collect money or get people from our department to bring in canned goods,” Wheeler said.

The 20 baskets were distributed to Johnston schools, where district representatives identified families that could use the help. Wheeler said department members never meet the families on the receiving end of their generosity, and they keep it that way for a reason.

“We don’t want people to feel embarrassed,” she said.

District representatives picked up the baskets last Thursday at Johnston Fire Headquarters on Atwood Avenue, where firefighters helped pack their cars.

With the Thanksgiving drive behind them, the Johnston Fire Department now looks ahead to the winter holidays. They ask that residents donate new, unwrapped toys for children of all ages, especially those ages 5 to 12, for their annual Toys for Tots program. Collection boxes are set up in each of the fire stations.

The deadline for donations is Dec. 19. Residents can also drop off toys at collection events scheduled for Dec. 1 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Planet Fitness and Job Lot.

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