It’s been a different year for Gander Fire Rescue.
Normally, members’ calendar would be filled with things like handing out Halloween candy to children at the hospital or opening the fire hall for tours. However, things like that were scuttled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, the fire department was hoping to do something this year.
With that in mind, some members of the department came up with the idea of collecting winter clothing for children.
“We just thought we were going to get jackets and stuff, but people were asking if they could donate certain items and we said, ‘Certainly, go ahead,’” said Addison Quilty, Gander Fire Rescue’s assistant deputy fire chief.
The department’s goal was to collect the same number of winter clothing as there are fire hydrants in Gander.
That set their aim at 427 pieces of clothing. They didn’t care if it was mittens, gloves, toques, jackets or boots, as long as the department was able to get what they aimed for.
It turns out they got all of those things in abundance — they’ve collected 432 pieces of clothing.
“We’ve been really impressed,” said Quilty. “We’re still getting things now.”
The pandemic has changed the way organizations handle donated items, and Gander Fire Rescue is no different.
The department put a pair of bins outside the fire hall and once an item was placed in the bin, it stayed there for 24 hours.
When it entered the building, the clothing was cleaned again.
In the next little while, the department will start bagging up what they’ve collected and delivered it to the Salvation Army.
From there, the church’s community and family services division in Gander will distribute the items where they are needed.
“The Salvation Army is certainly very grateful for that kind of partnership with us, to be able to provide that kind of practical donation to help people for the cold winter months,” said Maj. Rene Loveless, public relations and development secretary with the provincial Salvation Army. “That's fabulous.”
Loveless said he was impressed with the number of items the Gander fire department collected in a short period.
Ensuring children have adequate clothes for the winter months, which can be harsh at times in central Newfoundland, was at the heart of the Gander Fire Rescue clothing drive.
To see that effort to help children was something that stood out for Loveless.
“It’s a beautiful thing, really,” said Loveless.
The department isn’t done collecting clothing just yet. They’ve set a deadline of Dec. 6 and then they will stop collecting.
In the meantime, their final number could be even higher by the time they call it off next week.
“People are still not afraid to help others out,” said Quilty. “It is a good thing to see.”
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.