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OFF-DUTY FIREFIGHTERS BRING CHEER TO NEEDY

No sirens wailed when a Lackawanna Fire Department truck pulled up to three needy households in the Steel City Sunday.

Instead of axes, hoses and oxygen tanks, the firefighters came armed with food baskets and wishes of holiday cheer.

"It's nice to come to houses on an occasion that isn't scary, traumatic or an emergency," said Dean Moretti, a firefighter stationed at the firehouse at 2990 South Park Ave.

Moretti and four of his off-duty colleagues delivered large baskets filled with preparations for a Christmas dinner to three families in the city. The families were recommended for the special assistance by Sister Dorothy Demaria, director of the Lackawanna Food Pantry at 627 Ridge Road.

While the firefighters raise money for other local charities throughout the year, this year was the first time they distributed food baskets during the Christmas holiday.

"We thought we'd try to help out some needy families in Lackawanna," Moretti said. "So, we went to our local union, Local 3166 (International Association of Firefighters), and they donated $200 to the fund. All the firemen chipped in and raised another $225 to buy some gift certificates and over $200 worth of food to three separate families in Lackawanna."

Eight-year-old Jacob Halbert of Lisa Lane could barely contain his excitement when the fire truck pulled up to his grandparents trailer home Sunday. After presenting Jacob's grandmother, Ellen Candler, with the food basket, firefighters invited the youngster to sit in the cab of the fire engine, honk the horn and pose for photographs while wearing Moretti's helmet and hoisting the hose from the fire truck.

Quality Markets provided $20 gift certificates that also were delivered to each of the families.

Lt. Gary Strzelczyk credited Moretti with organizing the food giveaway.

Strzelczyk said the firefighters also appreciated the opportunity to present themselves to the public in a different light.

"It's gratifying to do something nice for the community. Working for the community and being paid by the citizens, it's nice to be able to give something back. It makes you feel good," he said.

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