Mont. Firefighters' Special Grind to Help One Cup at Time

Aug. 02--Some of the proceeds from a roast launched by Fire Tower Coffee in Helena early this week will go to supporting firefighters.

Guardian Coffee is being touted as a coffee made by firefighters, for firefighters; and $1 from every 12-ounce bag sold will go to organizations that support Montana firefighters.

Riley Relfe, sales and marketing manager at Fire Tower, said the business plans to donate to the Montana State Volunteer Firefighters Association, Wildland Firefighters Foundation and the Montana State Fire Chiefs Association.

"This is a way for us to support our community, and do a lot of good. We're really excited about it," Relfe said.

Owner Nord Johnson and Fire Tower are big on philanthropy, Relfe said, so when she came on board and proposed donating to firefighters, it was a natural fit.

Fire Tower will hold a free tasting at Van's Thriftway on Aug. 15 from 3 to 8 p.m. The coffeehouse will also host a benefit concert on Sept. 27, and all proceeds from the event will be donated to the selected organizations.

At the benefit concert, Relfe said, the business will honor all the fallen firefighters from the last year. She is even trying to gather a list of firefighters who died of natural causes, away from the line of duty.

To make the coffee, Relfe chose seven firefighters to come into Fire Tower after hours, taste different roasts and choose their favorite. Fire Tower then brewed two combinations, the firefighters came back in and voted on which they liked better.

"This really is their coffee," Relfe said.

The firefighters even came up with the name, Guardian Coffee, for the medium-dark roast and chose the organizations that would be receiving the money.

The firefighters, all from the Helena area, were a mix of volunteers and professionals. Relfe said it was difficult in the beginning to get the firefighters to join in the process, because they're so interested in helping others that helping themselves was not a top priority.

"They're amazing human beings. They're not about helping themselves, they're about helping other people," Relfe said.

Though they don't have a set fundraising goal, Relfe said she would love it if they could cut $1,000 checks to each organization.

Leonard Lundby, vice chairperson of the Montana State Fire Chief's Association, said that would help support an organization that normally relies on dues from department chiefs.

For an organization that has to be frugal with its spending, he said, any amount of money would be helpful.

"Initially, this first year, our plan is to give most, if not all of that money to the Montana firefighters memorial that is being constructed in Laurel," Lundby said.

"This is kind of the first time for something like this, where a business is essentially partnering with the association," he added.

If everything goes according to plan, Fire Tower will continue its partnership for years to come. Each year, Relfe said, they hope to hold another benefit concert for firefighters, but next fall they'll have a full 12 months to bring in funds.

"I would love nothing more than to have Guardian Coffee, for firefighters in Montana especially, have this be the coffee they're drinking when they're out there fighting fire," she said.



Copyright 2014 - Independent Record, Helena, Mont.