When it comes to serving their community, Lee’s Summit firefighters are always on duty. This year’s holiday Boot Block was no exception.
In late December, both active and retired firefighters manned the corners of Third and Douglas streets as passersby filled their boots with donations for community members in need. For the 2018 event, nearly 50 off-duty volunteers collected more than $30,000, a record for the annual fundraiser which benefits Lee’s Summit Social Services.
“The commitment and relationships firefighters have with the citizens and visitors to our city is strong and we’re committed to serving in a multitude of ways,” said Bryce Buchanan, firefighter and president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2195, which represents Lee’s Summit’s firefighters.
“When we’re working, the public trusts us to come into their homes and help them in their time of need. When we’re off-duty, they can also trust us to be where we can do the most good.”
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According to Matt Sanning, Lee’s Summit Social Services executive director, hundreds of the city’s residents benefit from the Boot Block donation, which raises the largest amount the nonprofit receives each year. The funds support numerous programs, including rent and utility assistance, car repairs, general medical supplies and the holiday store.
“IAFF was there and present from day one, when our agency began helping residents,” Sanning said. “This is the perfect example of how firefighters save lives when they’re working — and when they’re not. They are the epitome of humanity and work tirelessly to make sure their community is taken care of.”
The IAFF Local 2195, together with Lee’s Summit Fire Fighter Charities, held the first Boot Block fundraiser in the early 1970s. For the first several years, donations were presented to one local family in need. As contributions increased each year, they were distributed to more families. In 1984, the firefighters made the decision to partner with Lee’s Summit Social Services. Since then, the organization has been the recipient of all donations collected during the Boot Block.
Not only has Lee’s Summit Social Services been the recipient of Book Block funds each year, the total donation has increased every year for more than two decades. That fact is significant, Sanning said.
“Typically, when you receive funding, such as federal state or private grants, that amount stays the same or can decrease, he said. “But, one of our challenges is that the cost of living continually increases, along with the needs of people in our community.
“It’s awesome to see a donation like Boot Block increase, because we’re able to help more people in a more significant way. Without this, we would be in trouble with some of the tough times our industry is facing.”
While Sanning and Lee’s Summit Social Services are grateful to the firefighters, the firefighters also hold their share of gratitude.
“When you see the things our community can do together and we get to be part of, it makes the bad stuff easier to take,” Buchanan said, “We’re so appreciative of the generosity of citizens because, without them, this wouldn’t work.”