Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Firefighters’ foundation gaining steam

For Flower Mound firefighter Bret Taylor, there’s always been something special about that brief period of time between shifts at Station 3. The sun is coming up, and several firefighters who tirelessly worked overnight are clocking out. Meanwhile, the next group of men is quickly filing through the front door to take over.

Someone has already brewed the first batch of coffee, and they can all just sit down and chat for the next few moments. Inevitably, though, the idle chit-chatting morphs into a pseudo think tank where great ideas are never at a premium.

“You fire off a few ideas, and guys chime in,” Taylor said. “The next thing you know, we’re bought-in on getting that idea going.”

Such was the case with a “pet project” Taylor and a few of the guys admitted they’d had brewing in the back of their minds for way too long. Essentially, they wanted to create a nonprofit comprised of first responders who, beyond serving their community in uniform, were compelled to spearhead fundraising efforts to support local firefighters, their families, and the community. It had been an idea for so long that Taylor figured they’d just keep chipping away at it until it came to fruition.

And in May, that’s exactly what happened when the Flower Mound Firefighter’s Foundation was formed.

“This was definitely the culmination of a lot of planning and a series of conversations with guys like Tim Mackling, Barrett Brooks, Greg Jungman, and so many others who were incredibly supportive. Everyone was behind it,” Taylor said. “We have a duty as the fire department to serve our community and help where we can. And we’re also in the public eye. So we have that obligation to be a positive influence. This is who we are and what we are meant to do. We’re passionate about what we do.”

He added, “We’re at the point now where we’re getting the word out. People need to know what this is and how they can help.”

This Foundation is different from the existing Flower Mound Professional Firefighter’s Association in that it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. That means it has a dedicated mission and can solicit donations, hold events, etc. It is run by volunteers and has a board of directors consisting of Taylor (President), Brooks (VP), and Jungman (Secretary/Treasurer).

Taylor said the idea for a charitable organization really began to take flight when one of their long-time firefighter brothers, Wade Cannon, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2020. As Cannon continued to fight the most difficult battle of his life, it became increasingly clear that he and his family needed more support than ever. The same could be said for Chaplain Jeff Burks and his family. Burks was forced to retire recently due to medical reasons.

The department held a crawfish boil fundraiser in Cannon’s honor and has stepped up in various ways to support Burks and his family, but Taylor and so many others realized that they needed an actual Foundation to take everything to the next level.

“These are the things we need to be looking at. These are our brothers, and we need to be taking care of each other,” Taylor said. “But it doesn’t stop there. The Foundation needs to grow beyond that to include residents — perhaps someone’s house has burned down and needs help — or there are other initiatives in the community that we can jump in on.”

Last month, the Flower Mound Firefighter’s Foundation hosted a car show for a 21-year-old named Zachary Lovell, who recently completed chemotherapy. Zachary is a well-known friend of the fire department and has loved old classic cars and unique sports cars his entire life. When he needed a support system, his firefighter buddies and the community came out in droves.

“The turnout was amazing, and the smile on his face was worth it,” Taylor said. “Car owners came from all over the Metroplex for this one event, and it just goes to show what can happen when the community comes together.”

Taylor said the sky is the limit for the Flower Mound Firefighter’s Foundation, but like anything else, the key is to continue getting the word out and hope for donations from interested residents and local businesses.

“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve been able to do so far,” he said. “I’d eventually love to see us give scholarships to graduating seniors as well as a Fire and EMT scholarship. These are things we continue to look at because, by nature, we all want to give back, help in any way we can, and serve as many people as possible.”

The organization is currently holding its first fundraising raffle and collecting donations. If you would like to learn more or buy raffle tickets, visit www.flowermoundfirefighterfoundation.org.

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