Ty Strout, a full-time firefighter in Skowhegan, said the Fire Department typically uses some of its union dues at Christmastime to buy gift cards — redeemable at local businesses — for members of the community.

This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Strout and his colleagues decided to do something different.

“The guys and I had an idea to do something for the people on the front lines,” Strout said.

From there, the department had a sign made and displayed it at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan during the noon shift change.

The firefighters also pooled their union dues and spent $1,000 on 100 gift cards, which they have given to employees at Redington-Fairview.

“They were more than ecstatic,” Strout said. “We work closely with Redington-Fairview. We know them, we need them, they are there for us. This is a strange time, and we thought that they needed a little support.”

The gift cards were from businesses in town. That way, Strout said, the health care workers and local businesses benefit.

“We all have family and friends that work there, and we all know each other,” Strout said. “We don’t see each other like we used to because of the pandemic.

“This is just our way of saying ‘thank you’ to ER and EMS staff. The gift cards came from small businesses right in Skowhegan, so we are able to help both.”

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