BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Bloomington Firefighters Local 49 is continuing a 36-year tradition by passing out Thanksgiving baskets to lower-income elders in the community.

In years past, members would pass out frozen turkeys. Since then, the program has pivoted towards sacks filled with produce, nonperishable items, and non-consumable items like toiletries. The union works with local businesses and grocers to fill the baskets or sacks.

Monetary donations are collected year-round to prepare for the next year. Union President Eric Hall said it’s always a great time when they distribute baskets.

“We load up the back of pickup trucks and we go to each one of those residences and they meet us there. The residents are usually downstairs waiting for us,” he said. “It’s always a great interaction and everyone’s very appreciative and all of our members feel real good that they’re able to help people in need.”

The union distributes the baskets to the elderly at Phoenix Towers, Lincoln Towers, the Downtowner, Anglers Manor, and Bloomington Housing Authority locations. Hall says the reach of the program is all thanks to community effort.

“We can’t thank the community enough for the donations that they provide. This program is fully funded by the community,” said Hall. “We just take the funds and the donations that they do and we provide the manpower and work with our local partners to provide the resources and make these donations. So, without the donations from the community, these donations wouldn’t be possible.”

At this time the union is asking for $40 per basket. Excess funds will go towards next year’s Thanksgiving Basket Program. Checks can be dropped off at the Bloomington Fire Department Headquarters or mailed to Bloomington Fire Fighters Local 49, PO Box 493, Bloomington, IL 61701. Make checks payable to Bloomington Firefighters Local 49 and write, “Basket Program,” in the notes section. Donations are accepted year-round.