AMBOY – Christmas is a time for many things.
Snow, presents, family, cookies, and school vacation may be a few.
But so are kindness, love, sharing, and community.
The Amboy Volunteer Firemen’s Association and the Amboy school district have formed a partnership to unionize community and the act of giving with a food drive and Christmas baskets.
“We’ve been partnering with the schools for over 20 years. We’ve been putting together Christmas baskets for the community of Amboy for over 70 years,” said Amboy Fire Chief Jeff Bryant Sr. “As long as the Amboy Volunteer Firemen’s Association has been in existence, we’ve been doing food baskets for the needy.
“I think it’s very important for us to give back and try to help the people that need it. In the 1980s we were doing 30-40 of these baskets. The original intent was regardless of social or economic, it was a shot in the arm for people who had a tragic event prior to the holidays such as loss of a loved one because of medical conditions or an incident, a fire, or a loss of employment.”
The number of baskets created by Bryant Sr. and company reached 80 last year and the number of families on the list for 2022 has already reached 90.
The Christmas baskets include a ham, food for the holiday meal and kitchen staples such as bread, milk, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, and canned goods such as soup and vegetables.
Amboy students at Amboy Central Elementary, Amboy Junior High, and Amboy High School have already started a canned food and non-perishable food drive, which all items are taken to the fire station and divvied into the baskets.
Canned food and non-perishable food items can also be dropped off at the Amboy fire station 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To receive a basket, an application is not needed.
A family can be added by word of mouth whether the fire station is called (815-857-2325) by the needy family or by a third party who knows a family is in need. The family’s information such as name, number of residents at the home, and the address can be sent to Amboy Fire at P.O. Box 165, Amboy, IL, 61310.
“The struggle for the last two years has been the supply chain. We can’t go to a grocery store and order 80 of this or 80 of that because they can’t guarantee they’re going to have it,” said Bryant Sr. “We have to go to different stores or the same store on multiple different days to purchase the supplies that we need.
“That is the difficult part. The stuff that we’re buying isn’t easy to buy in bulk anymore. Before Covid-19, we could call any grocery store and order 80 of an item and they’d have it. Now, they don’t know if it’ll have it and they tell us just to take what’s on the shelves and they’ll restock the item when they can.
“Although it’s a little more difficult than the past, we’re still going to get the baskets made and give back to the community.”
The baskets range in different sizes as they can be tailored to a single adult, a family of three, four, five, six, and so on.
Once a family is on the list, a card will be sent to their home. They bring the card to the station and they can pick up their Christmas basket.
From participants such as Sensient Flavors, Rochelle Foods, Maria’s Pizza, Amboy Central Elementary School, the Amboy Junior High, the Amboy High School, and the Amboy Volunteer Firemen’s Association.