By Tom Quinn –
When Dunkin Donuts donated almost $300,000 to Box 4 Special Services more than two years ago to buy a canteen truck, president Steve Favulli and vice president Angelo Bengovio were thrilled, but put their foot down on one issue.
“We told them we weren’t painting the truck pink and orange,” Bongovio said, referring to the coffee chain’s ubiquitous logo. “It’s a fire truck. It’s red.”
Box 4 isn’t part of the fire department, but it serves firefighters in a unique way civilians may not realize is necessary. On board the vehicle are refrigerators, microwaves, an oven, stovetop, bathroom and plenty of storage space. Volunteers, mostly former public safety employees, respond to calls from local fire departments as far away as Lawrence and deliver water, hot drinks, food, and a place for firefighter to relieve themselves – none of which is a given during a lengthy emergency situation.
So far this year, Box 4 has responded to 34 calls. That is a sharp increase from the same time period last year, when the organization got 14 calls. Favulli said it is not a function of an increase in fires – it is an increase in awareness about the services Box 4 supplies.
“More and more people are realizing they have Box 4, they can call [us],” Favulli, a retired 32-year veteran of the Worcester Fire Department, said. “The word is getting out there.”
Even though departments are using Box 4 more often, the organization is technically homeless and looking for a place of its own. Right now, the canteen truck is parked on Worcester Emergency Medical Services property, and Favulli and Bongovio think they could expand the operation if a local businessman or company donated spare land or a building.
Favulli estimated the organization has about 10 reliable volunteers who are usually called in when a fire reaches its third alarm. His vice president thinks the organization might be able to attract more if it had its own building.
“Part of the problem with participation is we don’t have a home of our own,” said Bongovio, who served 28 years as a Worcester firefighter. “If you’re here all night, there’s no way to really rest.”
The original Box 4 was founded in 1921 when a group of local residents banded together to provide drinks and blankets to firefighters dealing with a serious fire on Main Street. Favulli said he would like to see Box 4 return to its roots, at least in terms of support from local business.
“A lot of influential businessmen in the city were in Box 4. It was all businesspeople who had the money to build it and support it,” Favulli said. “That’s why we keep saying there have to be some businesspeople out there who want to take this to the next level and help us.”
The organization already enjoys a long list of sponsors in addition to Dunkin Donuts. Polar Beverages and the 99 Restaurants provide water, Osterman Gas provides fuel, Calise Bread offers discounts on bread and Direnzo Towing provides towing services. In addition, a plethora of organizations provide financial support, including Hanover Insurance, the Leary Firefighters Foundation and Paul Davis Restoration.
Box 4 also draws support from public officials. Some of the funding for operations comes from donations from members of the firefighters’ union, and when Favulli and Bengovio sent out a message in 2012 inviting local politicians to come to the first meetings, ex-state Rep. John Fresolo, At-Large Councilor Kate Toomey and District 1 Councilor Tony Economou showed up to support the group. Economou in particular was singled out for connecting the group with Rob Branca from Dunkin Donuts, which kick-started Box 4’s mission.
“I found it a very worthwhile cause,” Economou said. “They’re struggling for nourishment, water, Gatorade – it doesn’t take long to dehydrate, especially in those conditions.”
Favulli said the donation to buy the larger canteen truck – Box 4 still has a smaller vehicle with fewer capabilities – helped the organization at a time when a group of people whose main experience was fighting fires was trying to start a charitable organization, mostly from scratch.
“We had no idea what to do,” Favulli said. “To be where we are in two years – everyone says they don’t understand the progress we’ve made.”
Box 4 Special Services would like to thank Tom Quinn and Worcester Mag for featuring us in the print edition. The full article can be found HERE
While we have appreciated all that Worcester EMS has done for us, the time has come for us to find a home of our own. We are limited to what we can store at WEMS’ garage, and we have reached a point where our storage space has become a limiting factor in our operational capability. By acquiring a home of our own, it would allow us to operate as a organization much more efficiently than what we currently have.