11 Years of Feeding First Responders During the Holidays

Growing up in a military family, I learned the importance of respecting others and giving back at an early age. It has been a guiding principle throughout my life and is what inspired me to pursue a military career of my own. For more than 20 years I served in the United States Coast Guard. I will always be grateful for my military career, but after retiring I realized I still had a desire to serve, just in a different capacity. I decided to find a new passion that would allow me to do what I love most – give back to others.

My military experience and close ties to the first responder community is initially what drew me to Firehouse Subs. I was immediately captivated with the brand when I learned Founders Chris Sorensen and Robin Sorensen were former firefighters whose passion to provide hearty and flavorful food combined with heartfelt service inspired them to open their first restaurant in 1994.

Additionally, after hearing about their non-profit, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, I realized how closely their values mirrored my own, and that made the decision to join the brand an easy one. Becoming a Firehouse Subs franchisee would be the perfect transition from serving my country to serving my community.

In 2006 with the help of my wife and children, I opened my first restaurant in Mobile, AL and have only looked back to see how far we’ve come. Our first year in business, we immediately knew we wanted to find ways to give back to our first responders. We began by offering discounts and incentives, but felt we could do more to let our hometown heroes know how much they mean to our community.

That December, my two lovely daughters came up with the winning idea. They challenged us to break away from the usual Christmas activities, like exchanging gifts, and instead spend that time giving back to the first responders who sacrifice time with their loved ones during the holidays to keep us safe.

My daughters’ selfless idea was just the inspiration we needed. Instantly, we began figuring out ways to put a plan into motion, and ultimately decided to align our charitable efforts with the restaurant by delivering hearty, holiday meals fit for on-duty first responders at Christmas.

That was 11 years ago, and each year we’ve watched this holiday initiative grow into a treasured tradition – one that has captivated the attention of our tight-knit community. From the restaurant employees who work long hours to help prepare dozens of subs, to the loyal guests who volunteer with their families to deliver the subs to more than 50 public safety agencies across Mobile County, this operation has grown into something bigger and better than we ever imagined. Even our local elementary schools have gotten involved with students creating handmade holiday cards for the first responders.

I am grateful that my decision to become a Firehouse Subs franchisee has afforded me the opportunity to honor Mobile’s local heroes in such a way. The support we’ve received over the years from friends, family and employees is overwhelming and we can’t thank the community of Mobile enough for the sacrifices they’ve made to keep this tradition alive. None of this would be possible without their efforts.

As we inch closer to our 11th Christmas feeding first responders, our restaurant is busier than usual preparing the more than 400 meals that will go to some of the most deserving people in our community. Spearheading this operation each year is a lot of hard work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. It’s truly amazing to see so many people come together and embody the holiday spirit by giving of themselves and taking time to show thanks to our hometown heroes. I look forward to seeing our holiday initiative continue to grow in the years to come.

By: Jim Sherman, Firehouse Subs Franchisee

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