OKEMOS - Firefighters in Meridian Township are going beyond search and rescue, they’ve now officially formed the Meridian Fire Community Outreach Program to help those in need. “It started because we went out to help a resident who was stuck in snow during the dead of winter. I couldn’t help but think he could get hypothermia or worse. It left a pit in my stomach. I knew I had to do something”, Meridian Firefighter TJ Booms recalls.
Neal, a quadriplegic, is confined to a wheel chair and living on his own. While TJ states Neal gets around pretty well, getting in and out of his home poses difficulties in the winter. His garage is not tall enough for his van or wide enough for the van lift gate to operate inside the garage. Neal has been parking in the driveway and maneuvering his wheelchair on uneven concrete, grass and snow to get inside his home. Two years ago, friends came to his aid and built a temporary structure over the drive so Neal could get in and out of his van and into his home safely. But overtime, that structure deteriorated and eventually collapsed, causing Neal to be exposed to winter elements from his drive.
Twice, Meridian Firefighters rescued Neal from being stuck in the snow and aided him in getting out of the freezing weather and into his warm home.
Because of this, TJ and Meridian Firefighter, Bill Richardson formed the Meridian Firefighters Community Outreach Program; putting together a community outreach fund to help residents in need. “It’s taken longer than I thought”, stated TJ, “but it’s worth it. Neal needs our help and there are others out there who probably do as well.”
In order for TJ and the outreach team to build a usable garage for Neal; they need funding. Home Depot generously came to their aid providing a $10,000 grant for materials. But donations are still needed for items like a dumpster, silk fencing, and other materials. TJ reached out to Culver's, as well who graciously agreed to assist.
On Monday, May 18 Culver's of Okemos is donating 5% of sales between 4pm and 10pm towards the cause. Both locations in Okemos are participating. A Meridian Fire Engine and Ambulance will be on site between 5:30pm and 7:30pm for kids to see the equipment.
According to TJ, they are hoping to do one project like this each year; “Although Neal is pretty independent, this is difficult for him and we hope this will help him achieve more of that independency.”
Donations can be dropped off or mailed to Meridian Township at 5151 Marsh Rd., Okemos, MI. 48864 in care of Meridian Township Firefighter Community Outreach.