BERLIN - The Berlin Volunteer Fire Department said it had a good year in fundraising this year and decided to pay it forward to the town’s veterans.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, members of the department presented the Veterans Commission with 126 $50 gift cards, the equivalent of $6,300.
“You’re the first people we want to give to,” said Jim Simmons, retired fire chief. “You’re the reason why we’re here. If we didn’t have the veterans, if the veterans didn’t stick their neck out and defend the town and the United States, we wouldn’t be here being able to do this. So we thank you guys. This just allows us to give back to you.”
Simmons said the department was able to help themselves already off of the profits they made from their “Freedom Fries” sold at their booth during the Berlin Fair in late September.
“There are veterans who are citizens of Berlin, who are going through some difficult times,” said Joe Cosso, a member of the commission, who coordinates efforts with the American Legion, after receiving the cards. “Let me tell you how much is going to help them have a very merry Christmas.”
Veterans Commission Chair Charles Colaressi said last year the department gave $2,000, allowing the commission to give veterans around $100 each, or whatever is needed. But with this donation the veterans in need will be able to receive a lot more.
“Now, they’ll get something substantial,” said Colaressi.
“That’s what we want to do, is help them out,” said Al Pipkin, who will retire from 42 years of service with the department in January. Pipkin said the success from the department’s annual car show, a recent comedy show and a fill the boot at the town’s tree-lighting ceremony is what allowed for the contribution. “You guys disburse it in the way you know how,” he said.
Peter Galgano, who serves on the commission and as the Veteran Services contact person for the town, said the town has around 20 veterans they’ll help out with cash donations during the holidays.
“Some of (them) are in very dire straits,” he said. “It makes a lot of people who are cryin, smilin’.”