GROTON — The drivers extended in a line of more than 20 cars from the Groton fire station and looping down to Main Street, waiting patiently Saturday for their chicken.
“We’re not going to be here long,” said Chris Neville, the mayor and fire commissioner of Groton.
Just 30 minutes after beginning to hand out barbecued chicken, it was gone.
Neville and members of the Groton Fire Department cooked and distributed 200 chicken halves to people outside of the department’s station as a way to give back to the community.
Drivers lined up next to the station, where Neville handed out two chicken halves per car, helping to keep social distance norms.
Neville said the idea came during the weekend of March 28 and 29 from a couple of local hunting clubs wanting to prepare and donate chicken to the community, he said. Neville liked the idea and then got in contact with the fire department to see if it could help.
“When you ask them to do something, they always step right up to the plate,” he said. “There’s never any hesitation.”
Drivers who lined up to get some chicken appreciated the event.
“They’re very good for reaching out and helping people,” said Rhonda Hughes, and a good way to look out for the community, which lies in the center of a food desert.
Members of the Groton Fire Department cook chicken Saturday outside the
Groton hasn’t had a grocery since the 1990s and the closest stores are 13 to 15 minutes away by car — very difficult for people who cannot drive or have little access to transportation, particularly now that public transit has reduced service because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s good,” said Frank VanEtten. “They need to do it more often.”
Groton Fire Chief Ben Nelson said beyond supporting the community, giving out chicken was a way to help bring back some semblance of life before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just because we’re all shut in doesn’t mean that you can’t have some bit of normalcy in your life,” he said.
Saturday’s give away of chicken took the place of the department’s annual chicken barbecue, which typically comes at the end of April. It will be canceled this year because of coronavirus, Nelson said.
Nelson said he hoped Saturday’s event will draw people to other events that may come later in the year, including a fireworks show in July.