After the coldest night of the year, on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 7, in two-degree weather, the Wading River Fire Department delivered a busload of food to seven local church pantries.

It was the conclusion of the fire department’s Christmas holiday “Stuff-A-Bus” food drive campaign. The response from the Wading River community was overwhelming, said ex-captain Tom Whelan, who ran the “Stuff-A-Bus” program this year. There was so much food it filled the department’s large dump truck — twice — and two other fire department trucks.

The non-perishable foods and canned goods were collected between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, outside the King Kullen supermarket and at the fire department headquarters, where residents dropped off items to help fill the big yellow bus. The bus, donated for the month by First Student Bus Company was parked in the lot outside headquarters and decorated with colorful Christmas lights.

Whelan, who ran the “Stuff-A-Bus” program this year, thanked the members who stood outside the supermarket ,in the cold, for hours.

“Half-way through, when we were not sure that we would fill the bus, we got a big boost from the Wading River Boy Scouts, Troop 94, who spent an entire Saturday collecting food. I would like to thank the scouts and the adult advisors for saving the day,” Whelan said.

“I am truly proud to live in Wading River, where there is such a sense of community.”

Department president Mike Hammer thanked the neighboring Shoreham firehouse members, who gathered food during their Santa Claus drive through town. “They collected a full pick-up truck of food. It was just great,” Hammer said. He said this year was special for the fire department because the food drive was dedicated to the memory of Mike Wiwczar, a member of WRFD for more than 50 years. “I really believe that the residents of Wading River donated so much in his honor.”

Volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel delivered numerous bags and boxes of groceries to the food pantries at St. John The Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Wading River Congregational Church, St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church, North Shore United Methodist Church, Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, Trinity Evangelical Church in Rocky Point, and Living Water Full Gospel Church in Riverhead.

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