NORTON SHORES, Mich. — We know firefighters save lives, property, and they risk their lives. But there’s a group of volunteers that has been helping firefighters all over Muskegon County and northern Ottawa County for the past 15 years. The organization is known as Canteen 450.
The canteen itself is a large fire engine red school bus, originally acquired years ago from the Plainfield Township fire department. The bus was completely renovated to include a fridge, microwave, coffee pots, snacks, beverages, and sandwiches for emergency staff while at fire scenes.
The entire group is made up of volunteers, some of which are retired firefighters themselves. They answer the call of duty anytime of the day or night.
Canteen 450 is not dispatched to every fire, but mainly the larger ones where firefighters need to be on scene for a while. “Their services are invaluable and much appreciated each and every time,” says Norton Shores Chief Bob Gagnon.
Canteen 450 runs solely on donations from fire departments, businesses, and individuals. They offer a cool place in the summertime and a place to thaw out in the wintertime for emergency personnel.
Over the past year, Canteen 450 has served 1,800 cups of coffee, almost 2,000 bottles of water (most of which was donated by Ice Mountain and the Red Cross), 332 cups of hot chocolate, 329 snack cakes, and more than 1,400 sandwiches. They responded to 64 emergency calls in the past year and racked up more than 1,000 volunteer man hours.
There are decals on the outside of the bus for each department that has been served or donated to Canteen 450. Inside the bus, there are also about a dozen name plates of past volunteers who have helped out and since passed on. “When you’re sitting here having a cup of coffee looking up at some of the names on there, it just kind of reminds you of some of the days that you worked with them and some of the memories that you’ve had with them” says Chief Gagnon.
There is no website, but donations can be made to Canteen 450, Norton Shores Fire Dept., 1100 E. Pontaluna Road, Norton Shores, MI, 49444-7770. Donations can also be dropped off directly at the Norton Shores Fire Department.