Maple Valley Firefighters saw a need and helped
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
June 17, 2012 · Updated 4:04 PM
Members of the Maple Valley fire service saw a need in the community beyond the help they already provide in their day jobs.
To that end, a group started the Maple Valley Firefighters Benevolent Fund two years ago, though it initially struggled to bring in cash to be effective it is now starting to ease out of those early growing pains, according to firefighter and fund board member Ryan Carpenter.
"It was a project that had been talked about for a long time," Carpenter said. "There were times throughout the year that families and firefighters families would request from union for financial assistant. The union wasn't quite the right way to do that. We're paying our unions to support us."Seeing a large need for a fund, firefighter Jeff Hammock created a 501(c)3 charitable organization. "We saw a need in the community as well as in our own membership for a pool of money that can be used to help people in need," he wrote in an email interview.
Additionally, Carpenter said that when they responded to a scene at a fire or accident, there was a desire to do more. "One thing you can imagine we come across people on their worst day sometimes," he said. "And we find ourselves in kind of a unique position where we're able to help people out more than just showing up to their 911 call and leaving. We want to be able to do more when those opportunities present themselves.
"One such time Carpenter said, was when he responded to an accident after an elderly man fell while trying to roof his home and died. He and several other firefighters came back the next day to bring his wife flowers and organized a work party to finish the roof. Carpenter said that at the time the fund was started there wasn't any money except to purchase a plaque that now hangs in the entryway to the firehouse.
People who make a donation are able to make a donation in a person's name and have it put on the plaque.Initially fire fighters made small donations of $15 a paycheck to help build up the fund.Despite the specificity of its title, Carpenter and Hammock both explained that the money is used to help a variety of personnel who serve in public safety roles, as well as the people they help as a part of their duties.
"This ranges from helping a soldier, police officer or firefighter's family who was hurt or killed in the line of duty to buying roofing materials to re roof a citizens house after we responded to help her husband after he fell off the roof," Hammock wrote. "As you can imagine, the interactions we have with the community don't go away after we get off duty.
There are a lot of things that stay with us leaving us feeling helpless at times, this fund allows us to help beyond what our job allows us to do, things like that where we come across these situations where we can help more than simply showing up"
For example, Carpenter said a donation made the fund's infancy was provided to a firefighter in Federal Way who was disabled after being struck by a car a year away from retirement.At the same time, Carpenter added that they focus will be mainly in the Maple Valley area.
"It's not a hard border," he said. "But we're more apt to donate someone who lives in Maple Valley. That's where we're trying to keep the money as local and to help cops and firefighters families."
Now that they have amassed a significant fund budget of around $10,000, Carpenter said, they are in a better position to help. But first, he said, they need to get word out. They plan to host the Dwight Van Zanen Golf Tournament Fundraiser on Sept. 17 at Washington National Golf Course to help raise money for his family. Vanen was a former Maple Valley fire chief who was killed in a plane accident in March.
"He was really a forefather to the fire department," Carpenter said. The golf tournament, he said, is part of their effort to alert public safety officers about the fund. "We haven't really gotten word out there," he said. "It's only been in the last year where we've had enough of a budget where we can donate larger sums of money."
Carpenter said they hope to add other programs to the fund as it grows, such as a scholarship for a student going into public safety. They are also looking into getting prepaid credit cards to help those whose homes have burned down stay at a hotel for the night or buy necessities such as clothing.The fund is run by a board of seven elected members, which is restricted to employees of the district, albeit it is not limited to firefighters.Those who wish to make a donation to the Maple Valley Firefighters Benevolent Fund can do so by going to website www.mvfirefund.org.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.