By Stacy Parker
SUFFOLK, Va. — Volunteer chief Mark Ellis had been looking for ways to fund the purchase of new equipment for the Holland Volunteer Fire Department. He found the answer at Firehouse Subs, 1201 N. Main St.
"I noticed they had a foundation for firemen," Ellis said.
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He asked the franchise owner, John King, how to tap into those funds.
King encouraged Ellis to submit an application to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The foundation awarded the Suffolk Police Department nearly $20,000 for forensics equipment in 2010.
Within a month, Ellis heard the good news. The foundation chose to award the volunteer department with extrication equipment valued at more than $29,500.
"I was ecstatic," Ellis said. "It blew my mind." There will be a ceremony at the sub shop today at 10 a.m.
The foundation has donated $4.5 million to public safety groups across the country since it launched in 2005. Grants are awarded quarterly. More than 80 percent of the donations are used to buy lifesaving equipment, said Robin Peters, the foundation's executive director.
Applicants typically submit their preferred vendor's price quote with their application.
The Holland Volunteer Fire Department serves southwestern Suffolk and supplements 15 career firefighters at Fire Station No, 7. The volunteer department was formed in 1941.
Volunteers recently participated in a training event with the vendor, ACI Fire & Safety. The extrication equipment, also known as "jaws of life," has multiple functions. It can be used to cut metal to free people trapped in a vehicle, push dashboards off of a person's legs or open crushed doors, Ellis said.
Firehouse Subs franchises collect donations for the foundation by recycling leftover, five-gallon pickle buckets and selling them to guests for $2. There's often a waiting list for the buckets at King's store. Also, donation canisters are available on the register counters and a "round up" program where guests can round up their bill to the nearest dollar is in place.
King's franchise consistently has been a top fundraising location, Peters said.
"The guests are just generous," she said.
Franchise owners are encouraged to meet and get to know first responders in their community, she said.
King, a retired police sergeant, and his wife, Pamela, who is a fire investigator for the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue, have been reaching out, and the results have been a boost for local public safety.
"By channeling these grant requests, we've brought just under $50,000 back to our community via the foundation," John King said.
The foundation will donate about $500,000 this quarter to departments across the country. The awards range from $15,000 to $30,000.
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