OCEAN CITY — Hundreds of toys and non-perishable food items were collected and delivered by first responders to families in Worcester County this month.
During the holiday season, the Ocean City firefighter union, IAFF 4269 typically adopts seniors at the Berlin Nursing Home as the beneficiaries of the union’s annual charitable event.
However, because of COVID, that wasn’t possible this year. Instead, the union teamed up with the entire membership of the Ocean City Fire Department and the Berlin Fire Department on what they believed at first was going to be a small-scale event, according to IAFF 4269 President Ryan Whittington.
“Ocean City firefighters, medics, fire marshal’s and volunteer members always look for way to give back to the community,” he said. “Families in our area needed help with one of life’s necessities- food, so we teamed up with the Berlin Wal-Mart and the Berlin Fire Company for what we thought was going to be a small toy and food drive.”
Two fire trucks, including one from Ocean City and one from Berlin, were set up at the Wal-Mart entrance. To keep donors and firefighters safe from the spread of the virus, safety protocols were implemented to provide a safe, no-contact donation experience. When the drop-off sites were set up and ready, the participating firefighters and paramedics were quickly surprised with the amount of donations.
“We were overwhelmed with the amount of food and toy donations we received,” said Ocean City firefighter and IAFF member Jeff Aperance. “It was truly amazing to see so many in our community willing to help others in need.”
After the donations were received, additional fire department vehicles and even firefighters’ personal trucks had to be used to transport the flood of toys, food and clothing.
Roughly 20 families benefited from the combined toy and food drive, from families with newborn twins, to older adults and larger families with eight- to 10 members receiving toys, clothing or food. Local community advocate and long-time Ocean City Beach Patrol member Colby Phillips also helped with distributing the donations throughout the community.
“A special thanks to my fellow firefighters, their families, the Berlin Fire Department and their incoming Chief R.J. Rhode, Berlin Wal-Mart, Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the Berlin Police and others who helped so many in our community this December,” said Whittington.