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Waterloo Fire Chief aims to end hunger in the community

Public safety is his personal mission, with ending food insecurity at the top of his list
Richard Hepditch
Waterloo Fire Chief Richard Hepditch (supplied photo)

Starting his career as a paramedic, for the Region, Richard Hepditch has been Chief of Waterloo Fire Rescue since 2014. Prior to this, he was Captain and Deputy Chief. He’s also the founder of various charitable campaigns, supporting our local food bank.

“Growing up, my family received help from the community, so I understand being on the receiving end of things,” he said. “These programs are important to me because 1 in 20 households in our community receives food assistance, this translates to 14,469 families in Waterloo Region.”

He encourages donors to visualize their contributions. “Imagine that individual or family at the kitchen table, giving thanks, and preparing to eat the food that you provided. When you are hungry, and I mean really, really hungry what else matters in that moment?”

Public safety is his personal mission, with ending food insecurity at the top of his list.

“Being a first responder, in my view, is a conduit to the community - especially if you really want to help your community, on and off duty.”

Hepditch is the kind of person you want to see succeed; you can’t help but to become personally invested in his victories. From breakdancing for awareness to creating year-round giving opportunities he’s a fascinating and likeable leader.

Opportunity didn’t land in his lap either, he worked for it. “After applying to about 10 fire departments, it took me almost five years to get hired as a firefighter,” he recalls, “it was worth the effort, I was hired in my home town in 1997.”

He’s a big believer in role-modeling, too “I hope awareness encourages others to act,” he says.

“Being the Fire Chief is the highest honor I have known. I will never take this role for granted and am very dedicated to our community, the public deserves my best effort every day.”

When asked about highlights of the job he says, it’s the moments he realized a patient simply needed compassion and reassurance. “Sometimes this was realized at non-urgent calls like a lift-assist due to a fall, or by bringing a warm blanket from the blanket warmer to comfort a patient. Knowing that I was helping a person in need, that this person is someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, mother, or father and they deserve the very best in care.”

Most recently, he became the recipient of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board 2019 Distinguished Graduate Award, “presented to a graduate of more than 10 years from who has demonstrated outstanding examples of the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations.”

For Hepditch, generosity and kindness were part of him long before he was the community leader we know now. Childhood friend, and fellow St David’s graduate, Barb Blue says, “He has always given his time to charities and always put everything and everyone before himself.” She describes him as a “loyal husband, great friend, amazing neighbour, and kind man” wishing there were “more Rich's in the community and the world.”

Fitness Feeds the Community was another unique opportunity for community members to give to the Food Bank. During which, Waterloo Fire Rescue and The Food Bank accept nonperishable food and cash donations.

Top Home Chef is a community giving campaign he’s invested in. “I recall people laughing at me when our volunteer team set a goal to raise $50,000 in one night. Well, we did it with the help of the community and children’s charities benefitted from many annual events” Hepditch says.

His Fire to Food Bank 365 program has extended to surrounding fire departments as well as the Waterloo Regional Police Service. Donations can now be made at any of these locations every day of the year - because the need is there 365 days a year.

“I am at my best when I am helping people including the public, our staff, or a deserving charity in our community.”

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s most needed food items can be found here

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