My friend George, who I have known since high school, once showed me a picture of himself as a young boy next to a fire truck. He had his own firefighter’s hat, and the biggest grin on his face. George said this was the inspiration that sparked his dream of being a firefighter. Well, that, and a certain 70s TV show. Yes, we’re that old.
I’ve loved fire trucks as long as I can remember. As corney as this sounds, what really sparked my desire to be a firefighter/paramedic was the show Emergency! I watched every episode, and still do. The amazing things they did just awed me. I knew one day I wanted to do that.
Connecting with cool fire engines and watching the awesome things the people who drove them could accomplish, helped to embed George’s love of helping others. So, it’s no surprise he has chosen careers in emergency response in one form or another.
I’ve worked the whole spectrum, full-time and volunteer firefighter: 30-plus years, and still active. Paramedic, 10 years; police K-9 officer, 10 years; and, Highway Incident Management Supervisor for 18 plus years, still active. Yes, it is considered part of the emergency services. Some of my jobs overlapped.
That type of imprint can make a huge difference in a child’s life and their vision of themselves. Thanks to a local ministry in Longview, Texas, it’s also the inspiration and impetus to care and feed needy families in the community.
From the Longview News Journal:
After this past year’s cancelation because of COVID-19 concerns, Longview Community Ministries held its 12th annual Touch a Truck — Feed a Family fundraiser Saturday at the Longview Mall.
Griffin Day, service center director at Longview Community Ministries, said the family oriented event is usually held on the first Saturday in October and gives children of all ages the opportunity to interact, explore and get closeup looks at large commercial, military, law enforcement, fire and medical service vehicles.
“Youngsters can come and see all the cool trucks they may see on a daily basis but don’t get a chance to interact with,” Day said. “They get to sit in the cab and play with the buttons, honk the horns.”
What a fun and informative family event, and from the pictures on the ministry’s Facebook page, the children had lots of big trucks to choose from. The page stated that they even had a scheduled visit from the CHRISTUS Flight for Life helicopter!
Not only does it encourage wonder and curiosity in a child, but who knows what imprint it might make on that child’s career future? The handlers of the vehicles, from fire personnel, to police officers, to race car drivers, are on hand to answer questions, give information, and especially to help the little ones navigate the big wheels.
At more than 12 feet tall, many children had trouble crawling into the cab of a Oshkosh M1070 military tank transporter on display in the mall parking lot, but those who were able to make the climb were treated to a towering view from the driver’s seat and had a blast honking the horn at passersby.
Layla Smith, 8, of Gladewater saddled up behind the handlebars of a police motorcycle unit and even played with its radio but, in the end, decided the two firetrucks on display from the Longview Fire Department were her favorites.
The event also allows families to have time together over a good cause.
Day said the event helps get the word out about the ministry’s services and also raises cash and food donations.
Longview Community Ministries’ Food Box feeds more than 3,100 people more than 21,000 meals monthly, according to the organization.
Imagine if other cities and municipalities sponsored a day such as this? How would it make a difference in not only building community and teaching children to pay attention the ones who look out for us, but it would demystify and defang much of the fear element that surrounds some first responders, such as law enforcement. When you feel as though people are a part of your community, rather than outside of it, you are more inclined to approach with openness and trust, rather than mistrust and anger.
Kudos to Longview Community Ministries for such a great idea that brings joy to children, as well as greater attention to those in need. Families in this Texas community are benefited from their fine work.