Fort Smith Fire Chief notes donation of money, time

Fort Smith Fire Department Chief Mike Richards said Fort Smith firefighters have given more than $394,000 back to the community since 2007, with that total not including the value of volunteer hours contributed by firefighters.

Richards released the fourth annual report Wednesday (Dec. 26) to Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.

“I believe you will be happy to know what our firefighters in Fort Smith do outside their normal daily responsibilities,” Richards noted in the report.

The donation of money and time happen largely through three groups, according to Richards. They are the International Association of Firefighters, Local 33; the Fort Smith Firefighters Foundation; and the Fort Smith Firefighters Association.

In the previous seven years, the Local 33 has raised and distributed more than $297,000 to families and organizations in the Fort Smith area. Examples of support include:
• $5,000 to Camp Sunshine. The camp is a four-day event in Little Rock conducted by the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and provides activities for children who suffered “some sort of disfiguring burn.”

• $21,000 to the MDA through the Labor Day fill-the-boot drive

• Raised $9,641 in 2012 to support Christmas Stuff the Stocking for the Children’s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith

• Donation of more than 500 bicycles to area children and homeless who have no other means of transportation. The donations are make through the Paul Hoover Memorial Bike Drive.

The Firefighters Association has raised and spent more than $97,000 since 2005 to aid local charity programs. Funds are primarily used for the Christmas Shop with a Firefighter program, building wheelchair ramps, helping families who lose a home to fire and distributing smoke alarms.

“Much of the $97,000 has come directly from the pockets of the Fort Smith Firefighters,” Richards noted.

This year, the Shop with a Firefighter effort provided 81 children with $110 each to spend on gifts, with Wal-Mart Stores and the First Baptist Church in Greenwood also supporting the effort.

The Firefighter Foundation was formed in 2006 to “honor fallen firefighters and their families throughout Fort Smith and the River Valley,” Richards wrote. The group has provided services for 31 events in 2012, including nine funerals.

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Foundation members also bought more than $15,000 in bagpipe and drum equipment to form the FSFD Pipe and Drum Corp. The money was all from the firefighters, Richards said.

“All of these groups provide these services on a volunteer basis with no compensation. They have donated countless hours to give back to the community and citizens for which they serve and care very deeply about,” Richards wrote. “Many of our firefighters contribute to those in need every single day in ways that largely go unnoticed.”

Link here for a PDF of Richards’ report.

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