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  • Helping Our Own

    NORWOOD, Mo. (AP) - Mark Warnick fought fires for 14 years, but
    then he found something even better.
    Warnick started Helping Our Own, an organization that collects
    firefighting equipment and distributes it to low-budget departments
    around the country.
    "I felt this was more important than firefighting," Warnick
    said. "I could save more firefighters' lives and civilians' lives,
    as well as property, than I ever could as a firefighter."
    In 31 years, Warnick said Helping Our Own has helped more than
    520 fire departments with $26 million worth of equipment. The
    organization made a drop Saturday in Cape Girardeau.
    Mary Kay Carr, 60, was skeptical after finding Helping Our Own
    on the Internet. Carr rented a 17-foot truck and drove it with her
    daughter, Michelle, from Norwood to Cape Girardeau.
    "I told my daughter, `We'll go out, just the two of us,' and if
    it turned out there was nothing, nobody would know."
    In Cape Girardeau, they found a tractor-trailer full of
    firefighting gear, which would be distributed to 17 Missouri fire
    departments.
    "I was floored," Carr said. "It was the prettiest sight I had
    seen in a long time."
    Carr and her daughter loaded up the truck and headed back to the
    Norwood Community Volunteer Fire Department, where both are
    volunteers.
    "My heavens," Carr said. "We got turnout gear that's probably
    enough for 20 - jackets, pants, gloves, helmets and boots. We got
    miles of hose. There was solid piping we can take water out of a
    pond or a swimming pool with, and we got radios."
    Several firefighters met Carr at the fire department Sunday to
    unload the truck.
    "We outfitted them and had a regular fashion show," Carr said.
    Glenn Adler, Norwood's assistant fire chief, was among the
    surprised. The department is funded entirely by yearly memberships
    from area residents. Adler said it never would have been able to
    afford the equipment, especially the much-needed turnout suits.
    "A brand-new set costs anywhere from $700 on up, and helmets
    are around $100 apiece," Adler said. "We've taken on a new four
    or five firefighters, and we didn't have clothing to give them.
    Without equipment, they basically just pull hose and help out
    around the truck."
    Carr said she got involved with the fire department as a way to
    give back to the firefighters and emergency responders that helped
    her through a fire at her home, a car accident and her husband's
    death.
    "I was amazed at how much these volunteers accomplished with
    little or no equipment...," Carr said. "There were several guys
    that didn't have simple gear, so they answered fires in their
    street clothes."
    That's when she found Helping Our Own, which Warnick founded in
    Ozark County. Warnick, a former Brixey-Rockbridge volunteer
    firefighter, collected $750,000 worth of donated equipment for his
    department. Now, Warnick operates out of Michigan Center, Mich.
    "Our ability is limited only by the funding we get," he said,
    adding that delivery of equipment was the organization's biggest
    expense. "Right now, we're at more than 5,000 fire departments in
    the United States that need our help. For every dollar we get, we
    can move $20-$25 worth of equipment."
    One of the organization's main initiatives is to distribute
    self-contained breathing apparatuses - or SCBAs - to firefighters.
    Helping Our Own brought 175 SCBAs to Missouri over the weekend,
    giving at least four to each department.
    "It comes with a warranty," Warnick said. "They're completely
    tested and repaired."
    Carr said her next project is to find a new pumper truck for the
    department.
    "I've just dedicated myself to this, and heaven knows the
    department needs the help," Carr said. "Sometimes, they don't
    even get a `thank you."'

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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