Jim Sherman doesn’t spend his Christmas at home like many Americans. Instead, the owner of Firehouse Subs in Mobile, Alabama, delivers hundreds of meals to first responders who have to spend their holidays protecting their communities.
Feeding Firemen on Christmas
The “Feeding First Responders” initiative started 11 years ago. The business was going well and Sherman wanted to do something to give back to the community. Then his kids made the suggestion of feeding firefighters who had to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas. And it just seemed like a natural fit. So they started by bringing subs and other foods from Firehouse to the first responders in Mobile.
Sherman said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “It’s been a great experience, not just for me and my team, but for all the families and the people in the communities who come out to help us every year. I think we almost get more out of it than the first responders.”
Since the beginning of this initiative, it has grown every year. Sherman has added fire stations in the communities around Mobile, as well as 911 buildings and county ambulances. Now, they feed nearly 400 people on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day each year. Sherman even teams up with a local elementary school that has students make cards for first responders. So the team delivers those cards along with the meals.
Overall, Sherman says that this type of initiative is something he would definitely recommend to other business owners, not just because of the charitable element, but also for the opportunity to connect with members of the community. He’s learned a lot through the more than a decade of passing out meals to first responders. Here are some of his main tips.
Choose a Cause That’s Close to Your Heart
When Sherman was choosing how to give back, it wasn’t just about picking something that fit with the brand of his business. He also knows personally what it’s like to spend your Christmas serving the public instead of being home with your family.
He said, “I used to be in the Coast Guard and had duty on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Luckily, most of the time we had a galley that would feed us but in a couple of places, we didn’t have that. So bringing food to those people during the holidays is something that’s near and dear to me.”
Get Your Team Involved
Sherman doesn’t require any of his team members to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in order to make or deliver the subs to first responders. However, he does offer them the opportunity if they’d like to volunteer. And he’s found that many of them do choose to spend at least part of their holiday helping with the initiative, which could potentially even lead to increased camaraderie and job satisfaction.
Connect With the Community
In addition, Sherman works with a number of families and members of the community who enjoy giving back on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This has allowed him to form even stronger connections with those people, many of whom come back year after year to help.
Image: Jim Sherman
It can be seen as a form of referral marketing and it will surely drive people to his restaurant. It is a nice way to get the buzz started especially if his restaurant is new.