HARWICH PORT — Even combined with the constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday’s heavy rain that saturated the ground did nothing to dampen the spirits of those who came out to support the annual “Homeless for the Holidays” drive in Harwich Port.
This was the sixth year firefighters and police came together to collect toys and food and raise money for the program established in 2002 by Bourne firefighter Craig Poirer. For three days, they roughed it out in all kinds of weather to draw attention to homelessness and the needs of less fortunate members of the community, collecting donations of money, gift cards, new toys and non-perishable food. The fruits of their efforts go to The Family Pantry of Cape Cod, other local food banks, and Toys for Tots.
Given the pandemic, the location of the event was moved this year from Brooks Park to the Schoolhouse parking lot in Harwich Port, providing more of a drive-through opportunity for donors and ensuring proper social distancing.
“It went well, it was the best year for monetary donations,” said Fire Department Lieut. Brad Willis, local organizer of the event. “The storm on Saturday obviously had its impact, but Sunday was pretty steady all day.”
Willis said the people of the community were generally very happy to see the public safety staff there, and seemed glad the event was one of a few that weren’t canceled because of the pandemic.
“I’m glad we did it, though we didn’t do it to the degree we usually do it,” Willis said.
In the previous five years, public safety staff resided in Brooks Park 24 hours a day over the three-day period. Given the pandemic the plan was to simplify it a little bit. The schedule was to go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Willis said once the shops started to close, foot traffic in the village all but vanished.
Saturday brought the worst weather in the history of the event, but participants stayed at their post. Cyndi Williams, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, opened the visitors center to provide shelter, but a couple of participants stuck it out in the driving rain.
Willis said the event this year raised $8,400 in cash and gift card donations, and collected 620 toys and about 500 pounds of food. The food and toy donations were down a little this year, Willis said that was expected, with people trying to limit the amount of time they spend in stores.
As for the venue, Willis said as long as the business community doesn’t mind the event being held there, they would consider coming back to Harwich Port next year. He said the chamber believes the event will encourage more people to visit the village.