“This was an awesome year for our Thanksgiving baskets,” said Cherra Wheeler, rescue captain of the Johnston Fire Department, as she stood amid a huge collection of frozen turkeys inside the department’s kitchen. “We were able to feed 40 families this time.”
Wheeler said that’s a new record since the effort began nine years ago.
Representatives from Johnston Public Schools showed up at Johnston Fire headquarters on Atwood Avenue on Monday to pick up what Johnston High School Assistant Principal Michael Mancieri called “a great act of giving” that will provide a Thanksgiving dinner – with all the trimmings – for 40 families who otherwise might not have enjoyed such a feast.
“Our donation was up from the 36 baskets we did last year,” Wheeler said. “These baskets are distributed through the school system and each of the families are anonymous to us here at the Johnston Fire Department.”
Back a few weeks, Wheeler related, “we began collecting for this year’s Thanksgiving baskets with each member of our department donating $12 per person. With that money, we buy the turkeys and all the fixings like stuffing, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, gravy and potatoes.”
Wheeler paused, then added with a smile: “We also give them the tin to cook the turkeys in and mixes for cookies and brownies so they can enjoy dessert.”
Meanwhile, the turkeys and fixings are all placed in sturdy laundry baskets that each family can keep.
As she continued accepting a “thank you” from each of the Johnston Public School officials, Wheeler said: “This is my favorite time of the year; I love doing the shopping for today.”
And that shopping spree, she continued “is made possible by every member – all 88 strong – of the Johnston Fire Department who love this program because it’s not only special but also a reminder that there are people out there who need help putting food on their family’s tables.”
“This really helps us fill an important need at Thanksgiving,” said Dina Needham, who operates the Food Pantry at Winsor Hill Elementary School and knows what the extraordinary act of giving means to people in need. “We really, really appreciate what the Johnston firefighters do for us today and for the great services they provide throughout the year.”