‘Tis the season of giving, but for Surrey firefighters, charity is a sentiment held all year round.
And 2018 has proven to be a milestone year for the charitable society, which handed out more than $1 million for the first time.
Those dollars made their way to more than 70 organizations in this city from the YMCA to the Surrey Food Bank to its nutritional snack program that gives out $200,000 of food annually.
“We’ve just recently reached that $1 million,” said Dylan Van Rooyen, a board member of the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society. “We were always hovering around the $900,000, or $950,000 (per year). We’re now at that million dollars. In addition we have three capital campaigns ongoing where we’ve decided we would support building a new YMCA in Surrey at $350K, the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, that’s doing some significant work, at half a million.
“So we’re very proud to report that each and every year we continue to raise more money, and increase the amount of giving.”
Rooyen, who has been a firefighter for nearly a decade, said as first responders, they see “first-hand what the need is in Surrey.”
“Back in 1994, when the founding members decided to organize the charitable society, they decided we need to do more: There’s more we can do aside form just going to the calls, responding and returning back to the hall. We wanted to find a way that we could give back and make a positive impact from young children to our most senior residents,” he remarked.
Firefighter Dan Kehler has been part of the charity’s Nutritional Snack Program for the past 21 years of its existence.
“It started with four schools, and now we’re up to in excess of 130 schools, providing breakfast, snack and lunch items for kids who come with little or nothing,” Kehler told the Now-Leader. “A child who’s focused on hunger isn’t focused on learning so if we can offer that child something to eat so they can focus on reading, writing and arithmetic rather than the hollow feeling in their stomach, than that’s’ what we’re going to do. We’re going to give them a fighting chance, because every kid deserves an opportunity to excel in school.”
This year, $200,000 of food purchased and delivered to Surrey schools.
Just last week, off-duty members met at the Costco in Newton to purchase $25,000 of food for hungry children.
“This program matters so much, not just to me, but so many of our firefighters. To know that children, now, can have a little something to eat, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or a snack during the day, to get through and have a better chance at learning matter a lot to us,” said Kehler.
In addition to that initiative, the society also assists members of the community that have been affected by trauma; raises money for medical health care and research; provides bursaries for community service; and delivers programs that offer “positive life experiences and enhance self-esteem.”
In the last month alone, the society has spent $25,000 on its nutritional snack program, matched $1,000 in donations to Children’s Hospice and spent $6,000 adopting 18 families for Christmas. That’s all in addition to handing out donations to the Burn Fund ($20,000), Muscular Dystrophy Canada ($15,000), and the Surrey Christmas Bureau ($5,000).
Aaron Cyr said the department’s charitable efforts are so top of mind within the department that it even comes up during the interview process.
“In our interview, we’re asking what charitable contribution and what lifestyle they have that contributes to charity, because that’s such a big part of who we are,” said Cyr, who is also a board member of the charitable society. “It’s so much of who we are that we have a payroll deduction plan where over 95 per cent of our members donate to our charitable society in the sum of over $100,000 a year. So we’re practicing what we preach and the money comes out of our pockets to go into our charitable society as well because we believe in what we’re doing.”
Cyr has been involved with the charitable society since day one on the job 11 years ago.
“It’s a great way for every individual in the department to feel proud of what we do and make a different impact, beside just going to calls,” he noted. “We make huge partnerships with people in the city that see the work we do with the charitable society. So they hop on, they encourage us, and also fund a lot of our programs because they see we do a lot of good work.”
To learn more about the society, visit surreyfirefighters.com/charitablesociety.