A total of $15,000 has been donated over the course of five years to local charities and organizations thanks to the Professional Firefighters of St. Clair Local 2665 Community Outreach Fund.
Money collected for the fund is directed toward organizations such as The Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Backpack program, Gold Star 24/7, The BackStoppers, St. Clair School District programs, Muscular Dystrophy Association of St. Louis, Little League sports, as well as families in need.
According to St. Clair Fire Capt. Chad Johnmeyer and Shop Steward Chad Blankenship, the Community Outreach Fund is completely separate from the St. Clair Fire Protection District’s general fund.
“We want to clarify that there is a difference,” Blankenship said.
“There’s a lot of people in the community that don’t understand that there is a difference. They think (when) they’re coming to a fundraiser that we’re having, it’s going back to the district and it’s not.”
The Community Outreach fund is made up of donations and collected money from fundraisers and raffles. Money is not taken out of the district’s fund to sponsor those fundraisers or raffles.
The 15 full time firefighters take a vote on where portions of the fund should be donated.
Although the money can be used for political purposes, St. Clair firefighters decided that the money would be better spent helping the community, according to Johnmeyer.
“That sets us different from other shops, other organizations,” he said.
He noted that when firefighters did their “Fill the Boot Campaign” in the past for Muscular Dystrophy Association of St. Louis and the Missouri (Children’s) Burn Camp, the money collected went straight to those organizations.
Additionally, when firefighters participate in the Angel Tree Program around the holidays, it was mentioned that the money is donated directly from the firefighters and not from the Community Outreach Fund.
“None of that money that’s collected goes into the district’s general fund. It doesn’t go into the shops general fund,” Johnmeyer said.
Johnmeyer coaches for the St. Clair Junior Bulldogs fifth-grade girls basketball teams. This season, many girls were interested in participating on the teams.
“We had so many come out for it that nobody wanted to turn the girls away,” he said.
He asked his fellow firefighters if they would consider using funds from the Community Outreach Fund to sponsor the additional girls who wanted to play.
“These guys agreed to it. We wrote a check for $750,” Johnmeyer said.
The donation allowed for a third team to form and no girls were turned away.
“All girls got to play basketball this go-around. That to us shows that this community outreach works because nobody got cut,” he said.
The Community Outreach Fund has also helped a battalion chief’s daughter after she was diagnosed with diabetes. The firefighters agreed to donate funds toward her service dog, according to Johnmeyer.
The service dog alerts her about her blood sugar levels
“The dog now sleeps with her, eats with her, works with her, goes everywhere she goes and anytime that blood sugar drops, that dog is on top of it,” he said.
Johnmeyer saw the service dog in action when the battalion chief’s daughter visited.
“The dog was sitting beside her and he (sat) up and started pawing,” he said.
“She’s like ‘I better check’ … and sure enough, it was time to medicate.”
Giving to programs such as the Gold Star 24/7 is also important to the firefighters. When Johnmeyer had emergency stomach surgery last year and was out of work for 13 weeks, the program helped him and his family.
“(The program) stepped up with a $500 check without any mention from anybody, which was a huge help,” Johnmeyer said.
On Feb. 10, there will be trivia night at the St. Clair Elks Lodge. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the event starts at 6 p.m.
A table of eight is $80 and there will be 10 rounds of trivia. Sponsorships are available.