The changing face of America was made apparent at the office of Firehouse.com in College Park, Maryland Thursday morning when three Georgia firefighters arrived in the early morning chill to deliver at check destined for 'The New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund'.
The generous check of $114,290 was the effort of the Athens-Clarke County Fire & Emergency Services. Lt. Tommy Hopkins and Doug Howard and David Barber, both Fire Officer 1, made the 800-mile trip to deliver the check.
It was a simple moment symbolic of the generous American outpouring as Firehouse.com Marketing Director Paul Andrews noticed the department command car sitting in the parking lot and asked if he could be of assistance.
The three introduced themselves, explained their mission and gave Andrews the check. They then went on to visit the Pentagon, site of the Washington D.C. terrorist attack.
When all is counted, it may be one of the greatest fund raising efforts in the nation’s history for first responders.
The partnership of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Firehouse.com -- and thousands of individual fundraisers around the country and in fact the world -- has accounted for tens of millions of dollars donated and collected for 'The New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund'.
The IAFF reports they have some $20 million in the bank and another $10 million out there collected, plus millions more in pledges and it’s just the beginning.
"The outpouring of love and support has just been incredible from the public, our locals and the fire service as a whole," IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. "Its going to take millions of dollars to give the hundreds of families who have lost a loved one the kind of financial support they need."
Checks from every state in the union, and countries like England, France, Italy and Germany have come to the Firehouse.com office. Amounts from $10 to $100,000 have been sent by elementary school classrooms and major law firms.
Newbold Elementary School in Rhinelander, Wisconsin mailed a card titled "Gift From The Heart". The signatures in child’s hand writing from kindergarten through 5th grade adorned the card and there too was a check for $427.85.
Firehouse.com founder Dave Ianonne said, "It’s an education in American society to spend an hour reading through all the cards an letters accompanying the checks. It reinforces your faith in people."
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which has a satellite office at Firehouse.com, will take the thousands of cards, letters, teddy bears and other items to New York.
There have been million dollar fundraising efforts in many states headed up by fire departments in conjunction with other community organizations. One of the most interesting is an effort in Akron, Ohio, which will provide apparatus to the New York City Fire Department and Police Department.