COLUMBIA — For many Columbia residents, the Friday morning flurries were an excuse to stay home. That wasn't the case for four Shakespeare's Pizza employees who showed up at the West Broadway location — not to feed the lunch crowd but to volunteer their day off to deliver pizzas to Columbia firefighters working on Christmas Eve.
With the lights dimmed and the unanswered phones ringing nonstop, Shakespeare's maintained its closed-for-the-holidays stance. The rest of the employees were off, but Shakespeare's West manager Bryan Simmons had coffee and doughnuts waiting for employees Garrett Isenhart, Justin Pearre, Jessie Roebuck and Jana Remington.
"We do it because it's the right thing," Simmons said about delivery pizzas to firefighters. "They have to work on the holiday, and we get to go home."
Bryan said Shakespeare's has been delivering pizza to firefighters for at least 10 years, but it began before he started working there. In years past, they delivered fully cooked pizzas to the firehouses, but this year they decided to deliver half-baked pizzas. This allows the firefighters more flexibility.
After arguing jokingly about who would drive the car with the best snow stability, Roebuck and Remington carried 11 pizzas in a large, fire engine-red carrier to the delivery car. Isenhart and Pearre delivered the others.
"We are giving back to the people who help us out," Remington said. "This is what Christmas should be about."
The sharp crunch of snow under tires came to a halt as the women arrived at the first fire station. Greeted by smiles and praise, Roebuck and Remington explained the cooking directions to thankful firefighters.
"Wow! A little pizza, yeah!" said firefighter Mark Jenkins, thanking the pair and wishing them a merry Christmas. After receiving more holiday wishes and reminders to drive safely, they made their way from station to station, nine in all.
"We don't need the recognition," Remington said. "We like to do this quietly."
Karen Johnson of Columbia has similar feelings. For the past two years, she and her granddaughter, 3-year-old Lauren Scott, have taken cookies to Columbia police at the downtown station and to firefighters at the station at 1000 Ashland Road.
On Thursday, Johnson walked into the police department with a tin of cookies in one hand and holding Lauren in her other arm. She said it was important for her to give back to those who have helped over the years.
Johnson had hoped to snap a photo of Lauren and the officer who took the goodies from her, but Lauren ducked behind her grandmother. But the officer had some little stickers for the girl: a gift in exchange for a gift.