By Samantha Reed 
QUINTE WEST – Sandy Powell stands at the end of her driveway waiting as the lights and noises come closer.
At her feet is a cardboard box full of food.
“I’ve been doing this every year. For as long as I can remember I’ve donated,” she said.
Powell is one of the hundreds of Quinte West  residents who donate non-perishable food items to local food banks at Christmastime when firefighters from the city’s Station 3  walk the streets collecting the donations.
It’s not a traditional way of donating, said Powell, which is why it is so successful.
“They’ve got floats now and it’s bigger and better. It’s like a little parade coming through for the kids,” she said.
The Station 3 Santa Tour and Food Drive has been going on for about 25 years.
“It started out with Santa just coming to see the families of the firefighters,” said firefighter Paul Ray.
Over time the residents living in the area started giving the firefighters food. It then expanded from there, explained Ray.
The firefighters spend three days walking the streets of Quinte West.
“We cover a huge area. We go from the very end of Lester Road, to Wedgewood,” Ray said.
They walk 75 to 100 kilometres in total and collect an estimated three to six tonnes of food every year.
“This is amazing for the community,” said Ray. :”People wait for us now every year – they know we’re coming. It’s definitely a tradition in the area.”
Katie Allen echoed Ray’s sentiments, saying donating to the food drive is a tradition for her and her sister Jessica.
“We’ve been doing it since we were little, 22 years,” Allen said. “As long as they’ve been doing it, we’ve done it.”
Many families need a little help this time of the year, with more money being spent on presents and other expenses, she said.
“This is a huge help for our client,” said Krista Carley of the Youth Habilitation. “Who doesn’t struggle this time of year? It means that they’ll have a little bit extra money to spend on Christmas dinner or that special Christmas gift.”