Firefighters spend Saturday collecting coats and food

Members of the Pine Bluff chapter of the Arkansas Professional Fire Fighters Association, the Local 14, donated their time Saturday afternoon to collect winter coats and canned food for the Salvation Army at several locations around town.

Lt. Michael Boykin of the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department, was out accepting donations in front of a restaurant on Dollarway Road early Saturday afternoon, surrounded by boxes full of coats and canned food.

“We are already on our second load,” Boykin said. “It is nice to give back to the community in this way. They depend on us for a lot of stuff and we will do whatever we can to help.”

“This is the first year that we have done this and we are already planning for next year,” Boykin said. “We plan to bring out some of the trucks and incorporate some of the volunteer fire departments from the area.”

“Whatever we end up with today may not be a lot but it’s more than they’ve had,” Boykin said. “We’ll just improve upon it every year.”

Captain Mark Fallis along with firefighter Michael Burleson were stationed in front of a clothing store in Jefferson Square with several collection boxes, one of which was overflowing with coats.

“It’s been kind of a slow day,” Burleson said. “The 90 percent chance of rain in the forecast may have kept some people away. We do have some coats that have been collected at each location around town and a couple of locations have also collected some canned goods.”

“The rain and cool temperatures may have kept some folks in,” said Fallis. “It has been kind of slow, but everything helps.”

Both men were happy to be volunteering their Saturday in order to give back to the community.

“People look at firefighters and see us as people that just sit around the fire station, wash the trucks and eat food,” Burleson said. “Events like this show people that we are really all about the community.”

Fallis agreed that the important thing for people to know is that firefighters are always ready to lend assistance to the community.

“When they have a need and don’t know who to call, whether it is an emergency or not, we will do whatever we can to help out,” Fallis said.

Lt. Chris Morris, vice president of the Local 14, said that the idea for the event was based on a desire by firefighters to do something to alleviate the degree of want that they see on an everyday basis in the community.

“We always try to do things for anybody in need,” Morris said. “We see people in need all the time in this line of work, more than other people do. As far as this event today we decided to run with it and see what happened.”

“It’s a good deal,” Morris said. “We try to give a little something back every now and then. It is good to have people who will volunteer their time to help out with this.”

“Most people get out of it what they are putting into it,” Morris said. “We see people hurting and it hurts to see people struggling. I love doing things like this. It’s not a big deal. I wish we could do more.”

Salvation Army Captain David Robinson was thankful for the firefighters’ efforts.

“It’s great what they are doing,” Robinson said. “I was out there with them a little bit. They are so positive about everything. They just want to help. We are so appreciative of everything they do out there; volunteering their own time to help people out. The food collected today will help us to get through more of the year not having to buy canned goods. This allows us not to have to deplete our funds buying food so it really helps us out.”

The firefighters of Local 14 accepted coats and jackets and canned goods from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Shannon’s Restaurant at 5511 Dollarway Road; the car wash parking lot at the corner of Hazel Street and Ridgway Road; the parking lot of the closed Bad Bob’s nightclub at 2204 E. Harding Ave.; and in front of Father and Son’s Clothier in the Jefferson Square shopping center.