Riverside Fire Department hosts drive-thru pork dinner fundraiser

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For one evening only, the Riverside fire station turned into a drive-through pork sandwich restaurant, as staff and volunteers hosted a rather unique form of fundraiser.

Community members donated the pork, and the fire department spread the word with flyers, social media posts and a marquee right outside their station. The event ran from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday evening, Nov. 20. Cars started arriving at 4:40. On a few occasions, bikers and pedestrians stopped by for a quick meal as well.

The event was the result of making the most of a bad situation. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Riverside fire department found itself unable to safely host the fundraisers it would have otherwise put on.

“We weren’t able to have our breakfast or the annual raffle that we normally do,” volunteer Tina Thomann, a thirty-year, recently retired veteran of the department, said. “Unfortunately, expenses still continued to occur, so we had to figure out a way to make money.”

So Thomann and her former colleagues brainstormed the drive-through option, which would be as quick, easy, and safe as possible for Riverside residents.

“Some other area departments had been doing drive through meals and had some success,” Riverside Fire Chief Chad Smothers said.

Guests could choose between a pork sandwich, baked beans, chips, and a cookie. There was no set amount charged for any meal or menu item. The whole event was free will, meaning guests paid what they wanted to give.

“Nobody has to get out of their car,” Thomann said. “We take the number of meals that they want when they pull up, we’ll bag it up, hand it through their door and they drive off.”

Thomann said the volunteers hoped to sell five hundred meals.

“That’s my goal, to run out [of food],” she said.

An hour after the first cars arrived, they had been reduced to one and a half roasters of pork and were down to their last two boxes of buns. A flood of cars at the beginning of the event had at that point been reduced to a persistent, but notably lessened, trickle.

The fireman’s boots the staff used to collect the money in had been emptied and refilled multiple times at that point. A successful fundraiser by any means.

“We thought [the event] would be a good way to be contactless and still get a meal out to the community,” Smothers said.

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