Last Modified: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 11:59 AM
The firefighters of the Lake Charles Fire Department haven’t gotten many breaks over the last few weeks. Top off the list of recent inconveniences with a truck crashing into the Company 5 station last month and you have a bunch of headaches and not much relief.
Thanks in part to a fundraiser held by the Sears Outlet on Gerstner Memorial Drive and donations from local residents, the firefighters are going to have some respite from those problems.
Throughout the 2013 Christmas season and into January, the Sears Outlet held a fundraiser for the firefighters and used the money to provide them with things they haven’t had the money to buy. Those luxuries came in 10 boxes, each containing a new gas grill.
Yvonne Johnson, store manager, led the effort behind the fundraiser. She said the goal in the beginning was to just provide something unique and helpful to the firefighters.
“We collected all through the Christmas season, and those donations came straight from the customers,” Johnson said. “Then we took what was donated, and we used it to purchase those 10 grills, one for each station.”
Johnson said the process was easy because once people learned where the proceeds from the fundraiser were going, they were more than willing to join the effort.
“A lot of the people that donated were excited to be a part of it. Everyone knows how much the Fire Department does for this community,” Johnson said. “With the economy the way it is and everything going on with the city’s budget, we knew it would be hard for them to get something like this for themselves. We’re just happy to be able to do something for them in return.”
Fire Chief Keith Murray knows how rough the last few months have been for the firefighters. Something as small as a regular gas grill can make a bad day seem pretty good, Murray said.
“On the weekends, when the guys aren’t making runs, they like to be just like everyone else,” Murray said. “They want to be able to relax for a while and maybe get a barbecue going. The guys, they really needed this.”
When the idea for the fundraiser was first brought up to Murray, the intent was to donate money to the department. The proceeds from fundraisers for the Fire Department can sometimes get lost in the city’s general fund, Murray said.
To make sure they got something out of it directly, the money was used to buy actual items, and that’s what local firefighters love.
“I told them that if they donate stuff, we actually get that stuff, Murray said with a laugh. “The guys love getting new gear and things like that, but this is different.”
The gas grills may not make the department’s financial constraints go away and they may not erase the fact that a truck barrelled through one of its stations, but they will provide a way for the firefighters to relax when they can and enjoy some nice summer barbecue.
“They’ve been going through so much this year, and they needed something like this,” Murray said. “I just feel like a proud papa seeing these guys so happy.”