The annual Homeless for the Holidays gift, food and money donation event once again has broken records.
“Definitely another record-breaker,” said the founder of the initiative, former Bourne firefighter Craig G. Poirier.
“I wasn’t sure at first, but then the donations just kept coming in,” Mr. Poirier said.
The annual charitable drive began December 4, and finished up at 3 PM Sunday, December 8.
Residents were invited to stop by the Bay Motor Inn on Main Street in Buzzards Bay and drop off an unwrapped gift, a non-perishable food item, or a cash donation. Items are distributed to struggling families to brighten their holiday season.
The annual event has taken place every December since 2001. It started in Bourne and since then has spread across Cape Cod to include police and fire departments from Bourne to Provincetown.
This year, Mr. Poirier said, in Bourne alone, people donated a total of 4,850 toys, 2,950 pounds of food, and $40,618 in monetary donations. Last year, also considered a record-breaker, there were 4,724 toys, 3,900 pounds of food, and $38,599 in cash.
Since its inception, the Bourne drive by itself has collected 43,840 toys, 59,780 pounds of food, and $301,209.
Toys go to families who are going through struggling times, Mr. Poirier said. All food items are donated to the Bourne Friends Food Pantry.
All cash gets placed in a bank account for the food pantry, which helps it buy in bulk at the Boston Food Bank, Mr. Poirier said. Checks go to the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots charity, he said.
Bourne firefighters were joined by 15 other emergency departments at six locations across the Cape. Among the towns with police and fire departments taking part were Brewster, Dennis, Harwich, Mashpee, Provincetown, and Truro.
A big surprise this year, Mr. Poirier said, was hearing that, unbeknownst to him, the fire department in West Springfield took part in Homeless for the Holidays. He said that a deputy fire chief at the West Springfield Fire Department found out about the event from a father-son team at the Yarmouth Fire Department to whom he is related.
Mr. Poirier said the West Springfield department apologized for only sleeping out for 52 hours, not the full 103 hours Bourne and the other Cape departments do. Apparently, firefighters from other departments that neighbor West Springfield came by to ask what was going on.
Those other departments may take part next year, and West Springfield’s involvement accomplishes a longstanding goal of Mr. Poirier’s to expand the drive beyond the Cape.
“So we’re finally over the bridges!” he said.
The other towns on the Cape, apart from Bourne, collected 6,041 toys, 11,639 pounds of food, and $37,362 in monetary donations, he said.
After 19 years, Mr. Poirier said, grand totals for Homeless for the Holidays are 82,827 toys, 93,309 pounds of food, and $522,493.
Mr. Poirier expressed his deep gratitude to Fred and Irene Carbone, the owners of the Bay Motor Inn, who allow him to set up camp on their property every year. He also thanked PIXY 103 deejay Matty B, who went to all six Cape locations to broadcast live.
Thanks were also given to Firefighter Dana Dupuis and his wife, Kim, for their help, particularly during the toy giveaway inside the gymnasium at the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center on Tuesday, December 10. The assistance of health career students from Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School was also much appreciated, he said.