ATF Houston Citizens' Academy provides hot meals to first responders

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) -- The ATF Houston Citizens' Academy was started in 2016 as a way to give members of the community a chance to look behind-the-scenes at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Participants are able to meet with special agents and perform hands-on activities such as firing weapons.

"We felt like people didn't really know what ATF was all about," said former agent Rob Elder. "We wanted to give people a peek behind the curtains."

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, the group's alumni association wanted to find a way to give back to organizations who work closely with ATF. They came up with the solution of buying meals from local restaurants and delivering them to various law enforcement agencies across the Houston-area.

"We're going to try to feed the first responders who are out protecting all of us," said Elder. "This is the simplest form of thank you that you could probably come up with."

Elder made the group's first delivery on Friday, dropping off Italiano's, a family-run Italian restaurant, to Houston Fire Department Station 56.

"I can tell you, personally, sometimes a hot meal is just what you need to get you through a down period," he says.

The group has deliveries planned for more organizations this week, including the police department at MD Anderson. They plan to keep this going as long as donations will allow.

"The first responders are certainly in a situation that I never faced in my career," Elder said. "We are a non-profit and donations will be tax deductible."

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