Firemen deliver annual Christmas baskets

Firemen fanned out into North Big Horn County Monday delivering a very special Christmas present to many families who could use a lift during the holidays: the now famous firemen’s Christmas baskets.

Firemen Justin Workman (left) and Jordan Hitz assemble Christmas food baskets at the Lovell Fire Hall on Monday. The firemen passed out 175 baskets this year. David Peck photo
Firemen Justin Workman (left) and Jordan Hitz assemble Christmas food baskets at the Lovell Fire Hall on Monday. The firemen passed out 175 baskets this year.
David Peck photo
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Librarian and student council sponsor Gwen Walker helps Lovell fourth-grader Erminia Garcia with a box of canned goods at the conclusion of the food drive at Lovell Elemetary on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Behind Erminia are Mona Jordan, left, and Quinten Carpenter. David Peck photo

Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept. Captain Bob Mangus said the local firemen have been delivering Christmas baskets for at least 30 years.

“We started out doing about 25 baskets, and now we’re up to 175,” he said. “Of course, we’ve added Deaver and Frannie since then.”

Mangus pointed out that everything that goes into the baskets is donated by the community, and no taxpayer funds are used for the baskets. Canned goods come from elementary school drives or are donated, and donated money pays for fresh food that is purchased the week of the distribution.

“We spend about $7,000 per year for the food items,” he said. “A lot of people come in and donate canned goods.

“We give Red Apple a list about three weeks in advance and on this day (Monday) they have it for us. We get it with a forklift. We bought eight pallets this year.”

The items purchased from the supermarket include hams, milk, eggs, bread, potatoes, butter, cheese, cookies, crackers, cereal and a candy bar package – 175 of each item.

Queen Bee donated bottles of honey, and Western Sugar donated bags of sugar.

The firemen obtain names from local churches and preschools and from people calling in or firemen’s personal knowledge. A few people come in or call to express a need.

The drive at Lovell Elementary School culminated last Wednesday, Dec. 17, with firemen picking up canned goods after members of the student council assembled boxes that morning. The fifth grade won a pizza party for gathering the most food, coordinator Gwen Walker said.

Walker said the drive brought in 3,363 items this year compared to 2,520 last year.

On Monday, firemen and a few community volunteers gathered at the fire hall to assemble the food baskets, and firemen then headed out into the community to deliver them. Mangus said the Deaver-Frannie volunteer firemen come and take the baskets to their area, and the Byron Lions Club delivers in Byron.

Delivery is better coordinated now thanks to fireman Jeremy Mangus putting addresses in order on a computer by street number.

“We do Lovell, Cowley and the surrounding area,” Mangus said.

Mangus said the annual project is meaningful to the firemen, who come to realize how very much in need many families or individuals are.

“The hard part is finding people at home,” he said. “We try to get everyone on the list a basket. It’s nice to get a phone number so we can call them.”

By David Peck