Connie and Terry Gerba arrange the dozen or so containers of food in the cramped Brookfield Fire Department kitchen, and one of the firefighters asks how long it took to make everything.
“I started baking Monday (Nov. 22),” Connie responded on Thanksgiving.
Yes, it’s a lot of work cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for Brookfield firefighters and police who work the holiday. “A pain in the ass,” Terry said, but quickly added, “It’s a labor of love.”
The Gerbas have been supplying a Thanksgiving feast to the first responders for 15 years. While they have the Mr. D’s Delicious Fine Foods deli crew cook the turkey, stuffing and gravy, the Gerbas do the rest, from baking pies and cakes to making garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, deviled eggs and other fixings.
“Phenomenal,” said fire Capt. James Williamson. “God bless you for doing this.”
Terry said he and his wife woke up one morning some years back and said, “This sounds like a good idea.”
“It was just a little way for saying, ‘Thanks for being around,’ and ‘It’s a comfort that you’re there,’” he said.
The Gerbas live across the street from the Route 7 fire station, and learned just how comforting the presence of the firefighters, who all double as medical personnel, can be six years ago when Terry had a heart attack.
The Gerbas sit down with the firefighters and police and eat their Thanksgiving meal with them, when they can. Last year, they had to just hand the food containers to the crews at the door because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re really a pretty good crew, all in all, and they do a lot of good for not a lot of money,” said Terry, a former Marine who wore a USMC shirt on Thanksgiving. “I wouldn’t do what they do for what they get paid.”
The Gerbas said they make enough so that there will be leftovers for the police who work the next shift.
“These guys pull duty on a day when everybody else is home with their families,” Terry said. “They’d like to do that, too.”