This year, the Spark of Love Program, a holiday toy drive, collected more than 5,000 toys for needy children, totaling about $15,000 in donations, Pansini said.
"I know we're called the Fire Department, but we're measured on the relationships we make in the community," he said. "We will only be as successful as the community allows us to be. And therefore we are in the community service business."
Local fire engine companies reach out to preschools and elementary schools throughout the year, educating students about the Fire Department. On the annual Fire Service Day, the department opens its stations to the public, giving tours and an inside look at what the department does. And last weekend, members of the department were on-site at the Peyton-Grismer Bike Tune-Up Workshop, where participants learned maintenance and repair tips for their bicycles.
"Every time the city has an event, we're there to have a presence," Pansini said.
But one event will always stick out in Pansini's mind. That was when he accepted an invitation to be "Principal for a Day" at McKinley Elementary School, visiting all the classrooms, playing kickball out in the school yard — living his memories of childhood all over again.
"I got to go back to that place that few of us get to go back to," he said. "That was really memorable. And I met some young kids that left huge impressions on me."
The aid center's fundraising dinner honoring Pansini on Friday will be held at the Castaway Restaurant Starlight Room, with the proceeds going toward client services, center operations and mortgage payments for its new building.
"I'm honored that they chose to honor the Fire Department," Pansini said. "We're deeply indebted to them for that. And it is an honor from an organization that does so much good…. For them to think about us along those lines, it's rewarding."