(Aug. 30, 2019) Four-year-old Jesse Baraz smiled as he picked out a Pikachu backpack full of school supplies for the year during the Ocean City Fire Department’s “Tools for Schools Giveaway” at its headquarters on 15th Street, Aug. 22.
Firefighter Ashley Northam guided Baraz to a line of tables that held even more school supplies. With a list of all Baraz’s classroom needs, she helped him pick out a few more necessities.
Fire Marshal Ryan Whittington said that the firefighters and paramedics are there for people during their worst time and that they want to give back to the community they serve.
“We still are members and a part of this community,” Whittington said. “If there are things that we can do beside responding to your call for help, we’re going to do it.”
Ocean City Fire Chief Richard Bowers announced “Tools for Schools Giveaway” at the end of July. The Ocean City community donated nearly 100 backpacks to the drive and 25 families signed up to receive the school supplies.
The families and children who received the school supplies were referred from Worcester GOLD, a nonprofit that assists families in crisis and individuals who need help with basic needs.
According to Executive Director Sandy Sipes, Worcester GOLD is currently serving 431 children in Worcester County. The children and families the nonprofit serves are referred from social workers.
“There are several school supply drives and this is essential for children to be successful as they start the academic year and blend in with the other students,” Sipes said.
Since the nonprofit only has two employees, Sipes said it couldn’t serve as many children as it does without the support of the community.
“I can’t thank the individuals at the fire department enough,” Sipes said. “They have a dangerous job and they give so much to our community. They’re still reaching out.”
She added that the fire department not only looks out for community safety, but also for the younger generation to make sure they have tools for success.
Whittington attributed the fire department’s community involvement to Bowers.
“Chief Bowers, since he’s taken over as our fire chief, he’s really highlighted our community involvement,” Whittington said. “We’re going to be part of our community fabric and we’re going to be there for the community when they need us.”
Whittington said his favorite part of the event was watching the firefighters help children pick out their supplies and seeing the smile on their faces.
He said Baraz was elated to get his new Pikachu backpack and so was another child who picked out a Spiderman one.
“You saw their excitement that they were going back to school,” Whittington said.
The fire department donated the extra school supplies and backpacks to Buckingham Elementary School in Berlin, as well as a few other families the department knows of through community involvement.
“It’s so important for kids to have tools to be successful with academics,” Sipes said.