After 14 years of working as a firefighter, including four years in Kirkland Lake, Ont., Jeremy Alldred-Hughes has always had a heart to serve the community, both on and off work hours.

“I feel like any first responder has the passion and desire to help, serve and look after our community. That doesn’t stop when we punch the clock. That’s what we are supposed to do,” he says.

Seeing a Need

So when Jeremy saw something that needed to be done, he acted on it.

Jeremy Alldred-Hughes in uniform

And as a result, the Kirkland Lake Salvation Army was overjoyed by a major donation supplied and supported by the Kirkland Lake Fire Department last Christmas. 

Jeremy was inspired by Project Porchlight, an initiative from his time as a firefighter in Huntsville, Ont. A community event held each year in December, residents leave non-perishable food donations on their front doorstep, and first responders or volunteers collect the donations and deliver them to The Salvation Army.

“I recognized that there was a need, particularly this past year more than ever,” says Jeremy. “I remembered the Project Porchlight idea but quickly realized it would require a lot of resources in a short period of time, so I decided to go about it a different way, and tried reaching out and getting sponsorship to supply a truck’s worth of food.”

Hefty Donation

As luck would have it, one of the first calls he made had a personal connection to Kirkland Lake and became one of the main sponsors of the initiative.

“I Googled wholesale food and liquidation distributors in Ontario and I came upon one,” explains Jeremy. “The gentleman I called was actually a former Kirkland Lake local. His son is a volunteer firefighter near here, and he has family in the area. It brought the whole thing together.”

Logistically, there were many pieces that needed to come together to make a donation of this size. After working a 24-hour shift, Jeremy was the one in the driver’s seat of this donation initiative, literally! He drove to North Bay, Ont., to collect the truck that would transport the goods, then picked up the food from Kraft Canada in Markham,Ont., as well as a donation of paper goods from Kimberly-Clarke. From Kraft, they received peanut butter, Kraft Dinner, canned goods and other non-perishable foods. Kimberly-Clarke donated 12 pallets of facial tissue.

In total, the donation weighed inat over 10,000 pounds.

Coming Together for a Cause

Upon his arrival back to The Salvation Army in Kirkland Lake, the town mayor, Stacy Wight, some of the town councillors, and many other first responders and volunteer firefighters were waiting to welcome him with the donation. Jacob Moore, director of community and family services, accepted the donation on behalf of The Salvation Army.

It was a tiring but rewarding day for Jeremy.

"The Salvation Army seemed like the perfect fit." - Jeremy Alldred-Hughes

“I left Kirkland Lake at 6 a.m., and we didn’t return until 10:30 p.m.,” he says. “It was kind of surreal. In the moment, I don’t think people realized how meaningful their donation was. It was feel-good and it was overwhelming. And it was cool seeing all of our services come together: fleet, ambulance and ourselves.”

Looking Forward to Christmas

The choice to make this large donation to The Salvation Army came quite naturally to Jeremy since he already had a connection to Jacob, who is a former officer with the Ontario Provincial Police. The two knew each other through their work as first responders in the community.

Staff, volunteers and community members welcome the donation at The Salvation Army in Kirkland Lake, Ont.

“He’d been expressing the need out there, not just in Kirkland Lake but in other areas as well,” Jeremy says. “In trying to help support him and the services that they are providing to people in our area, which are much needed, The Salvation Army seemed like a perfect fit.”

The Salvation Army in Kirkland Lake wasn’t the only location to benefit from this venture. Both the Timmins and New Liskeard branches of the Army in Ontario received portions of the donation as well.

As for Christmas 2023, Jeremy and team are already looking into options to bless the community.

“I’m looking into sponsorships again for 2023 for local businesses to sponsor with cash donations to purchase pallets of food,” he says. “I am eager and looking forward for what we can do for 2023!” 

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