As many of you know, I am at the end of my second term, and I have had a chance to meet some amazing people. I have created partnerships with all the “Office of Education” for our region. I have introduced the American Red Cross to different organizations and had the opportunity to educate a lot of parents and children, but there is one group I have had the opportunity to work with, that I have to recognize.
Our local fire fighters have done so much to help not just me, but to help our Central Valley AmeriCorps and preparedness team. In my two terms, I have worked with our fire departments on events such as: Team Firestopper, Wild Firestopper, Kid Firestopper, MLK Day of Service, and our Home Fire Campaign. Anytime I, or anyone on the team, have called on the fire departments, without hesitation, they have been there to help us. One might say, “Helping others is what they do.” And yes, helping others is what they do, but sometimes it’s so easy to overlook all they do that isn’t publicized.
When working on my Kid Firestopper program last year, I sat down with some fire fighters from Fresno and Merced, and asked for some of their input. I took some of the questions the children were asking me and received their answers. Now, I could have looked up the answers, but I wanted to give the children answers from the fire fighters. I felt it made more of an impact on them.
During Team Firestopper, the fire fighters were there to help us canvass and also gave us the facility to host our seminars. For HFC, they came out with their Explorers, Hot Shots, and a couple of engines to help install smoke detectors; one station even giving us carbon monoxide detectors to install. So big deal, a partnership with the Red Cross is almost expected, but many of the fire fighters who came to help did so because they appreciated our help. That’s huge for me to see and hear from them.
Before I began serving the American Red Cross, I had already established a respect for our fire fighters, but during these past two terms, that respect has grown. It has grown so much that I felt the need to give back in some way, but I didn’t know how. An opportunity presented itself last February when during a training exercise Fire Fighter Paramedic Chris Nelson, from Selma Fire, fell off a 45 ft. ladder. This accident left him needing several surgeries, and ultimately leaving him paralyzed. Due to the numerous surgeries, blood donation events were hosted in Fresno to help. I’m terrified of needles, but there I was donating blood for the first time to a fire fighter I had not, nor have, met. I did this for two reasons; he was a close friend to my close friend Captain Sean Johnson, and he was a man who would have helped us had we asked. During this event, I watched as brother fire fighters banded together to help another fire fighter, a brother. After experiencing this, I promised Captain Johnson, anytime any of his brothers needed help, I would do what I could. A prayer every time an engine would zoomed by, advocacy for fire fighter rights, and yes even another pint of blood was what I had to offer. Maybe it sounds extreme, but considering all a fire fighter offers any of us, at any given time, it was the least I could do.
On March 29th of this year, another brother came to need the communities help. Captain Pete Dern, of the Fresno Fire Department, fell through the roof of a house that was on fire. He was ventilating the roof of the garage when he stepped forward through the roof into a fiery pit. He was rescued by his crew, but not before he received burns from 60-70 per cent of his body. Capt. Dern has, since March 29th, undergone countless surgeries, and has an entire nation routing for his recovery and hosting blood drives. So there I went again, still hating needles, to donate for one of our own, a local fire fighter. As I arrived to the blood drive, there lining the parking lot were fire crews that I had the pleasure of working with during these past two terms. Each fire fighter took the time to thank me, and those in line, for coming out and helping Capt. Dern. They were thanking us, but what I don’t think they realized was, we were there to thank them (or at least I was.) This man, with his accident, has a nation wishing and praying for his recovery, and expressing their gratitude for the risks fire fighters go through every day.
As a moment of complete honesty, I joined AmeriCorps and agreed to serve the Red Cross for one huge reason; the opportunity to work with the Fire Department. I don’t believe I have the guts to become a fire fighter, but I have the heart to help them. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank our fire fighters, not just those in the Central Valley, but all fire brothers across the nation. Thank you for stepping into the fire for someone or something (pets) that may have been trapped inside. Thank you for doing your job and for never asking for thanks in return. Thank you for being our heroes! So for Captain Sean Johnson, Captain Pete Dern, and Fire Fighter Paramedic Chris Nelson, this little sister thanks you for being my heroes!
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region