Fire Department seeks candy donations for overseas troops

WESTFIELD- The Fire Department is participating in a national program in which extra or leftover Halloween candy can be donated to American troops overseas.

Operation Gratitude will have its first drop-off station in western Massachusetts  at the Fire Department Headquarters at 34 Broad St. through Nov. 5. Kids and parents can drop off candy at the station from which it will be given to Operation Gratitude who will sort it out to send to overseas troops.

Westfield Firefighter Travis Lucia, an Army veteran, spearheaded the fire department’s participation in the program. He had participated on a smaller scale last year, but opted to invite the entire community to donate candy this year.

“When you’re in the military, getting mail is a huge motivator,” said Lucia, “It is one of the few ways we can get in touch with people back home.”

Lucia said that he would often receive similar packages throughout his year-long deployment in Afghanistan. He said that those at Operation Gratitude will typically send the candy in packages also containing basic hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap.

Last year, when he only took donations from his fellow firefighters, Lucia was able to collect 15 pounds of candy to give to Operation Gratitude. He also included his son, who he said was more than happy to give away half his candy once Lucia explained the reasoning behind it. Just last year, more than 440,000 pounds of candy was donated to Operation Gratitude. 

He noted that he was motivated to start a collection point in Westfield because there are no other collection points in Western Massachusetts. The closest one to Westfield is south of Hartford. 

“Operation Gratitude’s mission is to thank all who serve, forging strong bonds between grateful Americans and the heroes who serve and protect them,” said Kevin Schmiegel, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.) and CEO of Operation Gratitude, “The Halloween Candy Give-Back Program provides every American child the opportunity to learn about service, sacrifice and generosity.”

Lucia added that Operation Gratitude requested that those who do want to donate give leftover candy after trick or treating rather than purchase candy solely to donate. Lucia said he is starting the collection early because the city had the downtown trick or treating event on Oct. 25 in addition to normal trick or treating on the 31st. 

Operation Gratitude will also take letters that kids can write to have sent to the troops alongside the candy. Lucia said that he and his fellow soldiers loved getting those kinds of letters while on deployment. They will also take cash donations to help pay for the cost of shipping the candy overseas.

The donation box constructed by Lucia is shaped like a smaller  mailbox.

To Top