Firefighters fight hunger in Pinellas Park

1:10 PM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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Pinellas Park, Florida -- Pinellas Park firefighters are doing more than fighting fires.

One by one, about 30 of firefighters and their families filed into the Publix on Park Avenue to fill up their carts with an entire days worth of Thanksgiving meals, from breakfast to dinner. 

"It started 12, 13 years ago. Pinellas Park firefighters always wanted to give back to the community and they were trying to look at ways to do it," explained Lt. Gary Berkheimer, with Pinellas Park Fire.

The firefighters spend the entire year raising money to give back to the people they serve and providing a Thanksgiving meal for needy families is just one way they support their neighbors. 

"We have a lot of families. In fact, we had a record number of families  call us this year. Unfortunately, the money only goes so far," said Lt. Berkheimer.

This year, they are serving about 12 families in the community.

Despite the long list and long, winding line of firefighters and shopping carts, they managed to get in and out of the store in less than 45 minutes so they could get on their way with the special deliveries.

This is just one way this department is going beyond their duty to serve and protect.

"We help them out I more ways than this. If they sustain a fire in the home, we will also come out on scene and we will give them money without asking any questions if they need it to help them get their lives back together," said Lt. Berkheimer. 

Among the families receiving the extra help is the Ocampo-Gonzalez family. They were more than happy to see firefighters file into their home.

"It's actually really nice. We are in a bad economy and don't make much, barely getting by," said 14-year-old David Gonzalez. 

He tells us he wishes he could get a job to help his parents, but he has school to focus on, so knowing his family will have a Thanksgiving meal is pretty special for this young man.

And pretty special for the firefighters, knowing the families will not go hungry.
"I'm pretty grateful for the pie, I like pie," smiled 12-year-old Jesus Gonzalez. 

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