SOUTH PORTLAND — The smell of freshly cooked bacon wafted through the air at the Cash Corner fire station Saturday morning as firefighters gathered shortly after the start of a new 24-hour shift.

In the center of the kitchen was a table filled with fruit, muffins, egg casseroles, pancakes, granola, yogurt and other breakfast foods – an elaborate spread that arrived to the surprise and delight of those working Christmas Day.

“We had no idea,” said Lt. Seth Hagar of the South Portland Fire Department. “There was some small notifications on social media, but this wasn’t planned. It was very short notice and it was unexpected. It was a pleasant surprise for sure.”

The Christmas Day brunch was organized by two South Portland community members who rallied others to cook and deliver hot food and treats for first responders working the holiday. In addition to the fire department, the volunteers also prepared food for the police department and regional dispatchers and made snack packs for city bus drivers.

Joyce Fehl of South Portland delivers brunch dishes to Central Fire Station on Christmas morning. The brunch was organized by two South Portland community members who rallied about 50 others to cook and deliver hot food and treats for first responders and other city employees working the holiday.(Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer) Derek Davis

“People were just really excited and they wanted a way to show their appreciation to our first responders and our bus drivers,” said Sari Greene, 64, a co-organizer of the brunch and manager of the South Portland Community of Kindness Facebook group. “It’s been a tough year for them and this was just a way to be able to say thank you.”

More than 50 people were involved in preparing and delivering not only brunch and snacks, but also Christmas Eve dinner to first responders around the city, Greene said. She said co-organizer Cristin French originally reached out to her with the idea and from there Greene got in touch with the city for permission and to initiate contact with the various departments.

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French, who previously lived in Virginia, said her community there used to do something similar and she was inspired to bring the idea to South Portland while recovering from COVID-19 recently.

“I’m not a good person to just lay around and do nothing,” said French, 56. “It’s not my style so I had to find something to do to fill my time.”

Christmas brunch delivered by Joyce Fehl of South Portland to Central Fire Station on Christmas morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The women shared the idea in various local Facebook groups, including Greene’s Community of Kindness group, and then used an online app called Meal Train to organize who would be bringing what to each location.

At the fire department’s Central Station, snow was falling and the roads were getting slick as residents trickled into the station with trays of food Saturday. Michelle Horton and her son Alex, wearing pajamas and Santa hats, brought an egg casserole and cinnamon rolls. They also brought macaroni and cheese and dinner rolls the night before on Christmas Eve.

“They have to work the holidays and we have the privilege of having safe holidays with our families while they’re here making sure everybody else stays safe as well,” Horton said.

South Portland firefighters enjoy Christmas brunch at Cash Corner station on Christmas morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Joyce Fehl, who started working with Greene on an initiative called SoPo Cooks! a few months ago to feed families in need during the coronavirus pandemic, said she was touched by the idea to also feed first responders on the holiday.

On Saturday she brought a French toast bake, sausage and a 30 Second Dance Party, a plastic button that when you press it plays a song for 30 seconds. “I have a friend who’s a first responder and whatever you can do, especially on Christmas (is helpful),” Fehl said.

It was a quiet morning at Central Station Saturday, but Capt. Jon Martin said that wasn’t the case the night before on Christmas Eve, and he and his crew were grateful for the support.

“There aren’t many jobs the community supports and South Portland is a great community,” Martin said. “We’re very lucky. Many other cities probably aren’t so close knit. We’re fortunate in that aspect.”


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