JACKSON – Fire trucks went through several sections of the township but the firefighters inside them weren’t there to put out a fire, they were patrolling to put out bags to feed those in need.
Jackson Kiwanis President Jeff Domenick initiated the project that he’s hoping spreads faster than a fire to other communities. The program is just another in a long line of projects that have paired up the local service organization with members of the Whitesville Fire Company.
Kiwanis members joined firefighters recently at the firehouse to put out bags for donations and to collect those donations of food that would then go to the Jackson Food Pantry.
Domenick said, “it is strange times we are living in right now. We are fortunate to have a lot of good people in our group. We are excited. Everyone saw on social media and other media outlets what we were planning. Bradley Beach did something like this very early on in the pandemic.”
He said the idea came up from that project. “We all saw what Bradley Beach did as a town in conjunction with their fire department. Who doesn’t love a firetruck?”
“I’m 41 years old and every time we have our meetings at the Whiteville Firehouse every third Thursday, I go out and look at the firetrucks. I’m an adult and love firetrucks, the kids love firetrucks and an integral part of our community, is the fire department along with the police department,” Domenick said.
Teams of people went out with three different fire trucks and a dump truck. Kiwanis members “walked the beat street after street” – all collecting for a good cause.
Domenick is asking residents to leave non-perishable food as well as toiletries at the end of their driveway in bags so it is contactless in maintaining the governor’s orders of social distancing.
“We’re going to walk the streets and whoever chooses to participate as far as residents go, we will grab the items place them back of the pickup truck, sort them out and bring them to local food pantries. The Jackson Food Pantry, Fulfill in Toms River and Neptune, and any food pantry locally that need non perishables as well as toiletries,” Domenick added.
On the day of the effort, a few people stopped off to the firehouse before the tour of the town began. Kathleen Gibson was one of those people who came wearing her mask and dropping off some bags of non-perishable items.
“I live in Toms River but I was born and bred in Jackson and lived right off of Veterans Highway. When I heard about this I knew I had to help,” Gibson said.
“We’ve always had a wonderful working relationship with the Kiwanis Club for at least 15 years that I’ve been here and I’m sure it’s gone on longer than that,” Whitesville Fire Co. Asst. Fire Chief Tim Flemming said. “They run pancake breakfasts here as well as their meetings at the firehouse.”
Flemming said he was happy to see the fire company “help out with this.” His brother, Martin Flemming Jr. is the department’s chief and he was part of the day’s effort driving along in the chief’s vehicle to bring attention to residents.
Their father, Martin Flemming was also there but prefaced “I’m here not as a councilman but just as a member of the fire company to help out. This is a great project.”
“We will be continuing this. At first we were going to go weekly but we thought weekly might be a little tough with getting the word out to people. We will do a bi-weekly effort in different sections of Jackson. We’ll put it out in social media posts. We took it a step further to list the streets so people know,” Domenick said.
Domenick noted that the schedule was in direct correlation to the department’s course when Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny comes out for visits. “This is the route they take and each fire department does their respective route. In working with Whitesville, their bunny patrol is what we used to base our routes off of.”
“You never know, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny may make an appearance over these weeks. One never knows,” Domenick said. He added that while the project could have been organized to have a contactless drop off center, by getting the fire departments involved and their respective company members and Kiwanis members it was a way “to send out the message that we are all in this together. That the residents have the support of other residents and the local fire department and we all love fire trucks.”
“This gives people something to look forward to. Something different as it is a very monotonous world right now. A very Groundhog Day world,” he added.