Fairfield food pantry fundraiser takes on new competition this year

The city’s annual food drive to help the Fairfield Food Pantry will have a bit more at stake this year.

Fairfield’s police and fire departments are competing to collect food for the pantry, and the losing department will have their parking lot turned into a temporary car wash.

If the police department wins, fire Chief Don Bennett and other firefighters will have to wash three police vehicles, including police Chief Steve Maynard’s. If the fire department wins, Maynard and other officers will have to wash the fire department’s largest fire truck.

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“I think it’s a great team-building event. It will be fun to see who wins, and it will be fun to see how the loser reacts,” said Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling.

The goal is to collect more than the previous year, which was around 2 tons of food last year.

“This is such a good idea,” said Judy Dirksen, who co-founded the Fairfield Food Pantry with her late husband, Howard, more than two decades ago. “I think it’s just so good for our police and fire to come together for the common good.”

Dirksen said the numbers have grown in just the past two years.

In 2018, around 9,200 people were served by the Fairfield Food Pantry, but that number jumped in 2019 to more than 12,200. And the way the numbers are going, she anticipates that will grow in 2020.

Police department spokesman Officer Doug Day said the competition is to bring in “a little friendly competition” with the fire department, but added: “We’re going to do anything in our power not to wash that fire truck.”

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Bennett said he's going to propose a two-week extension for the contest because "it could not have started at a worse time," referring to the March 6 officer-involved shooting and the rising public concerns with the coronavirus.

Day said donations so far have been sparse at the police department, but believes it will pick up. The public can also donate to one of the three fire stations.

Bennett said these types of challenges between the police and fire departments show unity, and “have fun while benefiting such a worthy cause.”

“It’s fun to know we have the ability to pick at each other and have fun,” he said.

The drive started on March 9, and will wrap up on March 23, unless Bennett gets his requested extension.

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