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Firefighters provide gifts for seniors and kids at Christmas

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Jan 6, 2021

Left to right: Firefighter Peer, Capt. Barr, Engineer McQuade, Fire Inspector Ulrich. Photo submitted by Chief Ben Mickuleit


When Union DVP Capt. Bobby Barr and the rest of the Fire Control District aren’t out fighting local fires, it seems they still have the community in mind.

According to Barr, this year union members of the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District felt the need to go a step beyond the normal altruism they display at Christmas, by extending the holiday joy to island children as well as the seniors they usually help through the Beacon Bites Program.

“Every year we get a list of what roughly 25 seniors would like for Christmas,” said Barr. “We always go out and buy those gifts, but this year we wanted to go a little bit further. We reached out to Pine Island Elementary to find a couple of students whose families could use assistance.”

Barr said due to the pandemic they realized some families were likely in need of support and the members of the local fire district were more than willing to grant that wish.

They received the names of two students, he said; one boy and one girl. After contacting the parents of these students, Barr said they got a Christmas list together and made it happen.

The parents were given the choice to let the kids know where the gifts had come from, or simply use their own judgement, because to Barr and the district, it only mattered that these kids had what they needed, and enjoyed a plentiful Christmas, in true island fashion, claiming credit for generosity never came into play.

As for the gifts, Barr said they were able to offer the children a variety, ranging from school clothes and shoes to toys.

“We knew the chief couldn’t allocate district funds to do this,” said Barr, “so we said, don’t worry, we’ve got this.”

He said although this is a new addition, feedback from the staff would indicate they continue the tradition of helping kids every year, with the possibility of expanding their efforts.

“We really want to do more — this was a trial run,” Barr said, adding that this was a unanimous decision and every member was more than happy to contribute their own money to make this Christmas wish become a reality.

According to Barr, there is a personal running fund for household incidentals needed daily by district members. This fund is added to bi-weekly, with a portion from each member.

As early as March 2020, everyone voted to increase giving to this fund in order to extend a helping hand to local families in need with any community outreach they could provide.

“This was really just about us giving back. A lot of us have families,” said Barr. “This was our way of helping out, since so often, our response is reactive after something bad has happened, it’s really nice to do something positive — to help when it’s not an emergency.”