Oakland's Fire Station 18 gives back at holidays

Oakland firefighters are continuing a decades-old tradition of giving back to the community this holiday season.

On a recent morning, Oakland Fire Station 18 was buzzing with activity as firefighters loaded up for a call that was unlike most others they go on. They packed boxes full of holiday foods, to be delivered to churches and other organizations in Oakland that help people year-round, and especially during the holidays.

"It's way for us, as firefighters, to give back because we live in and serve these communities, and this is our way to give back to the people we serve," said Batallion Chief Frank Tijiboy.

The donations are made possible through the firefighter's union, Local 55.

The effort started at Station 18 in the early 1980s, when firefighters adopted eight families. This year they'll provide food for 250 families.

 Dee Johnson is the executive director of the Lend a Hand Foundation, which is receiving 15 of the food boxes. "This is really a blessing," she said, "to have a turkey, and the staples that go with it, it can last a while."

One of the food boxes is for Evoni Blackwell. She is raising her two grandchildren, Amira and Noah.

"I think it is absolutely wonderful," said Blackwell, "I have a great deal of respect for first responders and I think it's beautiful what they're doing for families here in Oakland."   

 Lola Hill is 82 years old, and also raising two of her grandchildren. She said it can be hard when they ask for things she can't afford, and she is grateful for the help she gets. "I can't explain it in words, just how important it is" said Hill, "it makes a difference between just having it, and not, or being able to do some of the things I'm able, because of the firefighters' help." 

 Hill says even though she doesn't have everything she needs, she finds ways to gives back whenever she can. That spirit of gratitude and giving is something she hopes people keep in mind long after the holidays are over.