The Feed a Hero initiative has become a true North Texas Christmas tradition with the community giving meals to first responders in a show of generosity and love.
In its sixth year, a group of volunteers will hand deliver 6,000 Christmas meals to first responders in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Parker, Cook and Wise counties.
The preparations start on Christmas Eve and the work continues until the last meal is delivered to police and fire stations throughout North Texas.
“I have a passion for it. I’m a former first responder, so I get it,” founder Jim Searles said. “I’ve eaten my fair share of 7Eleven hot dogs on Christmas Day because they were the only thing that was open. Our heroes deserve better than this.”
Not only are the first responders touched by the kindness, the volunteers often walk away with a deeper understanding of true gratitude.
“Our volunteers come back year and year and say ‘we thought we knew what true gratitude was, until we saw that,” Searles said.
Amy and Robb Bertelsen are among those who've made Feed a Hero a family tradition.
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The couple first volunteered three years ago, packing and delivering meals in their hometown of Denton.
Just a few hours later, they woke to flashing lights, smoke and flames just feet from their home in the Denton square.
When they got down to the street, they recognized the men and women fighting to protect them as the same ones they'd delivered food to just hours earlier.
"I had boxed their meals and she labeled them, so it hit home," said Robb Bertelsen.
It's a reminder that's fueled a return visit for the couple and their family year after year.
"It's just not right that the guys who protect us while we're all having Christmas or whatever sit out in their car and eat an MRE or whatever. That's not good enough," said Bertelsen.
While 2019 will set a new record for the number of first responders served, Searles already has his sights set on 2020 when they aim to serve all of the 8,000 plus police officers and firefighters in North Texas.
ONLINE: You can find out how to help by visiting FeedAHero.org.