ARARAT — Two area fire departments are holding similar fundraisers to help fund fire programs and aid in emergency calls for responders.
Ararat Volunteer Fire Department plans on using profits from its Help Us Find You fundraising effort to benefit its junior firefighter program. Junior firefighters are those still in middle and high school who are members of the fire department. The idea is to train the junior firefighters so that they are prepared to operate trucks, work fire and wreck scenes and be ready to be on the front lines as soon as they turn 18 and become firefighters.
Shoals Volunteer Fire Department also will use funding to benefit its junior program, which has six members and will add two more in August when they turn 14, said Capt. Chris Gillett, coordinator for Shoals’ junior program.
The goals of the campaign are dual purposed, said Ararat Fire Engineer Eric Klein, who coordinates the junior program, which has 10 members.
“It is a 911 sign program,” said Klein as he showed off the reflective green address signs residents can purchase to mark the intersection of their driveway for fire and fire responders to better locate their home in the case of an emergency.
“The juniors benefit because it gets them out in the community and lets them go to events the college won’t fund,” Klein said. “I’ve got juniors who are not 16, and they can’t participate in college programs.”
The fundraiser also “helps senior guys like me in emergency calls,” he said. “Everybody gets a problem where a mailbox is in one isolated place, but the homes are on the other side of the road or down a side road. So you put this at the corner of your driveway so we can find it.”
Klein is hoping to fund a couple of programs with the profits from the fundraiser. One of those is a junior challenge team, which would have local junior firefighters traveling to Raleigh to compete in skills drills against other junior firefighters in the state. The cost of the program is $75 per team, but would require an overnight stay as well.
Another program Klein is interested in that he hopes he can raise the funds to send the juniors to is a one-week camp in West Virginia specifically designed to train the juniors. “It teaches the nuts and bolts. They go from rookies to professional firefighters in a week,” he said.
The cost of the camp is significantly higher than the challenge team experience.
“It is expensive and they do need the proper gear to go up there,” said Klein.
For Shoals, the goal is to raise enough money to outfit all the juniors with Class A dress uniforms, and have money left over for training and other uses, said Gillett.
In just one day of door-to-door selling in Ararat, more than 30 signs already have been sold. The cost of the signs include installation by the juniors, with adult supervision.
For the Ararat fundraiser, signs and hardware will cost $25, while a post, hardware and sign will cost $30. The signs are being made by Finish Line Graphics and Signs in Dobson. Klein said he was glad to be able to keep the fundraiser local. There is a three- to four-week turnaround between the order and the installation.
“We will deliver outside the Ararat (fire) district up to 10 miles, but we didn’t want to encroach on Shoals’ area,” he said.
In Shoals, which began the fundraiser earlier than Ararat and was working with a different company, Gillett said signs cost $25 each, and the mounting kits are $5.
Klein said he would like to see Surry County unified on its signage to make it easier for responders to find homes. “I would like to see all of Surry County like this. It is inexpensive and is a life saver.
“They are 3M reflective so they do shine at night when you hit them,” he said. “We can’t always see a house on fire, but what I’m worried about is someone who fell in the middle of their house and we drive by three times and they can’t get to the door to flag us down.
“It’s been a good thing for the community. They are really liking it.”
Klein’s goal is to sell 500 signs. Gillett said to uniform all the juniors it will take selling 100 signs, but he hopes to sell more to have funding for training and other uses.
To purchase a sign from Ararat VFD, call Klein at 336-834-2032 or the station at 336-374-4608.
To purchase a sign from Shoals VFD, call Gillett at 336-287-3838.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.