"We were too embarrassed to even put a logo on our faded blue van," said Tim Firestone Sr., Readiness and Response manager, Schuylkill County Red Cross. Firestone, who said this to a firefighter while responding to a house fire last month in New Ringgold, routinely uses the van to respond to disasters.
After hearing this, Ed Boerner, who is a longtime firefighter with the Tamaqua Rescue Squad and West Penn Fire Company, worked with his wife, Kelly, to seek volunteers to paint the Red Cross's 1994 GMC Astrovan.
Providing the initial finances needed to cover the initial cost of the paint, Boerner worked with area fire companies and local auto shops (Ziegler's Auto Repair & Towing and Tom's Autobody & Marine) to gather volunteers able and willing to help paint the van white.
Working during Saturday's snowstorm, about eight volunteers showed up at Tom's Autobody & Marine in Tamaqua to sand, clean, prep and paint the van. The next day, the same volunteers showed to finish the work.
"The Schuylkill Red Cross is always helping disaster victims and providing support to all the emergency personnel on scene of these disasters," said Boerner. "We determined it was our time to give a little back."
While painting the van, volunteers noticed a leak in the brake line. After the paint dried, Ronny Ziegler of Ziegler's Auto Repair and Towing donated his time and money to replace the brake lines.
Donations to cover the paint can be mailed and made out to to the West Penn Fire Company No. 1, 21 Municipal Road, New Ringgold PA 17960. Put "Red Cross Van" on the memo line.
"I never thought a comment I said during a fire would result in our Red Cross vehicle getting a new paint job," praised Firestone. "Our chapter really appreciates the kind generosity of all the Tamaqua and West Penn firefighters and community members for giving our van new life."
The American Red Cross of Schuylkill County provides programs and services to approximately 143,000 residents. The Schuylkill County Chapter, centered out of Pottsville, is one of 13 chapters that make up the Northeast Pennsylvania Region. In addition to Schuylkill and Berks County, volunteers with the chapter can respond to any disaster in any county in Pennsylvania.
"In addition to opening temporary shelters during natural disasters, our chapter routinely provides food and shelter in emergency and disaster-related situations, assists members of our armed forces and their families, teaches lifesaving skills, assists emergency personnel on disaster sites and so on," Firestone added.
"We are extremely grateful to all the firefighters, community members and local businesses that stepped up to help a fellow community organization that gives back all the time," said Boerner.
"Last year alone, we responded to over 110 calls, which included assisting 40 families affected by fire," said Firestone. "This doesn't include responding to natural disasters or other types of disasters requiring many emergency responders.
"Our American Red Cross is a charitable organization, not a government agency," said Firestone. "We depend on volunteers and the generosity of the public to perform our mission."