Guest Column: Generosity

“Unselfish giving and sharing of resources, time and talents with others.”

Performance. Professionalism. Responsiveness. Service. These are the themes that emerged when our community was recently asked to describe the Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD).

Our firefighters do indeed spend their days and nights preparing for and responding to emergencies to protect people, property and the environment. House fires, motor vehicle crashes, fire alarms, heart attacks, strokes, seizures, water rescues, hazardous materials spills and much more are all in a day’s work at the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

But it’s what happens during off-duty hours that truly demonstrates the spirit of Generosity that is alive and well among the firefighters of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Everyone remembers the devastating wildfires of 2015. Millions of acres were burned in Washington and Idaho. Hundreds of houses and outbuildings were destroyed. Residents were left to pick up the pieces, many without insurance. Here in Spokane Valley, our community was anxious to help but didn’t know how. That’s when the volunteers of the non-profit organization Veterans Community Response (VCR), a combined team of SVFD firefighters, combat veterans and trauma clinicians swung into action. They set up a tent in the SVFD Administration parking lot and collected a steady stream of donations most needed by firefighters and families impacted by the wildfires. Not only did they collect the donations, but they personally delivered the donations directly to impacted communities – Kamiah, Chelan, Colville and more. After a week of immediate aid collection and distribution, VCR worked with local emergency management agencies to send volunteer crews to help the residents of these communities rebuild their homes, outbuildings and lives.

Lives are also rebuilt right here in the greater Spokane Valley, thanks to the generosity of our employees who voluntarily give each month to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Employees’ Scholarship Fund. The fund was launched in 2011 by a group of firefighters who wanted to help our residents seeking to better themselves and their lives with a ‘hand up’ instead of a ‘hand out.’ The scholarship fund supports non-traditional students who are pursuing a technical or vocational degree or certification at the Community Colleges of Spokane. Since its inception, 27 scholarships have been provided totaling just under $70,000. The fund expanded in 2013 to include the George Sly Memorial Endowment, established to honor our fallen firefighter, with the goal of providing a full scholarship from the endowment revenue each year.

Employees of the Spokane Valley Fire Department have also embraced the opportunity support the Anna Schindler Foundation, founded by a fellow firefighter and his wife to support families battling childhood cancer in the Inland Northwest, as well as raise money and awareness of childhood cancer. Their daughter Anna was a courageous young girl when she passed away in 2010, but her spirit lives on through the foundation. In 2015, more than $70,000 in direct support was given to families for meal cards, gas, groceries, hardship, travel/lodging, or medical bills while their child was in cancer treatment.

There are many more examples of Generosity within the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Last fall, our firefighters raised $9,100 for Muscular Dystrophy (MDA) during the annual “Fill the Boot” drive and $7,100 was raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this spring by our six-man team during the annual Firefighter StairClimb Challenge in Seattle’s Columbia Center. Since 1999, the Spokane Valley Firefighters Benevolent Association has been providing community members with financial assistance in times of hardship and helping to meet the charitable needs of our community at large. And Veterans Community Response helps wounded and traumatized combat veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Founded by Spokane Valley firefighters in 2009, this non-profit organization provides a variety of programs and services including “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” retreats to support combat veterans.

The men and women of the Spokane Valley Fire Department bring good character to light by unselfishly giving and sharing their resources, time and talents with others. The Department’s organizational values — Accountability, Trustworthiness, Respect, Excellence, Caring and Quality Customer Service – are reflected in the actions of these compassionate, dedicated fire service professionals to benefit the community we serve, every day.

Melanie Rose, APR, joined the Spokane Valley Fire Department in 2015 as Community Relations Officer. She is a founding member of Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE) and is serving as PACE President for 2016-2017. She previously worked as the Director of Communications for the Central Valley School District for more than 10 years. Melanie is also a member of the Valleyfest Board of Directors and is an active member of the Spokane Rotary East club and the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.