A Berkeley firefighter stands in front of 770 bags of food that volunteers put together for the city’s elderly in 2011. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
A Berkeley firefighter stands in front of 770 bags of food that volunteers put together for the city’s elderly in 2011. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley firefighters are looking for volunteers Saturday to help them stuff 800 grocery bags with food and deliver them to some of Berkeley’s elderly for the holidays. (Berkeley police are also looking for donations of toys. See below.)

For more than 25 years, Berkeley Firefighters Random Acts, a philanthropic group of firefighters who help the community, has given away bags of chickens, fresh fruit, vegetables, and canned food to those on limited budgets.

“Eleven percent of Berkeley’s residents are over 65 years old and a majority of them are on fixed incomes,” said Dori Tieu, the organizer of the event and the treasurer of the firefighters’ organization. “Yet food prices have increased 30% over the past ten years. Eight years ago, we were delivering about 400 bags. In the past two years, we have delivered groceries to over 800 seniors. We are glad that with the community’s support we can provide this much-needed service.”

In addition to the Berkeley Firefighters Random Acts, several other groups sponsor the event, including the Berkeley Firefighters Association; Berkeley Fire Department; San Francisco Fire Credit Union; the Lions Clubs of Berkeley, West Berkeley and Albany; and the city of Berkeley.

Ashby Plumbing & Heating Supply, Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Trader Joe’s and Safeway (Shattuck Avenue) provide the food at cost, said Tieu. Individual donations from private citizens help pay for the food bags.

Volunteers will gather at Berkeley Fire Station #2, at 2029 Berkeley Way, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. They will fill grocery bags with food in the apparatus bay. Firefighters will treat the volunteers to a breakfast of pancakes, sausages, eggs, milk, orange juice, coffee, and tea at 10 a.m.  Then volunteers will begin hand-delivering the bags throughout the community until no more food is left, said Tieu.

No reservations are necessary. Just show up, said Tieu. For more information, or to donate, contact Dori Tieu at dtieu@ci.berkeley.ca.us.

Toys for Tots: Police are looking for more donations

Kids at the Toys for Tots giveaway in 2014. Photo: Berkeley Police Association

For many years, the Berkeley police and fire departments have teamed up with the U.S. Marine Corps to collect new toys to distribute during the holidays. In 2015, the organizations, aided by community donations, distributed toys to 3,000 deserving youth, according to a Nixle alert put out by BPD.

Police are still looking for more toy donations, although registration to receive the toys has closed. People wishing to support Toys for Tots can drop off new unwrapped toys at any Berkeley fire station, or the Ronald Tsukamoto Public Safety Building at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr Way.

In 2015, a shortfall in donations threatened the Toys for Tots giveaway, and the police department set up an emergency fundraising program. The community responded and 193 people donated $11,114 in one day.

Toys will be handed out Saturday.

Outpouring of concern for ‘Toys for Tots’ brings in donations (12.20.15)
Berkeley ‘Toys for Tots’ needs help after donations fall (12.16.15)
Volunteers stuff 770 grocery bags with holiday food (12.19.11)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...