Jenny’s Heroes funding means new firefighters’ gear

ABERFOYLE – Puslinch Township will be getting new gear for its firefighters via a $10,000 grant provided by  Jenny’s Heroes Canada.

Jenny Jones is known for hosting the nationally syndicated talk show Jenny Jones, but her resume includes many careers, including philanthropist.

On Aug. 14, Puslinch councillors approved the execution of the funding agreement with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs for the Jenny’s Heroes Canada Grant for high-visibility, lightweight, fire-rated coveralls.

A memo from Puslinch deputy fire chief Brad Churchill noted, “Jenny’s Heroes Canada’s goal is to help small, volunteer firefighter-based departments purchase gear, equipment and/or technology to assist them in providing emergency first response in their community.”

Churchill noted grants can be up to $25,000 and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs strongly encourages all volunteer fire departments in Ontario to apply.

In 2019, “Jenny’s Heroes donated almost $100,000 to volunteer fire departments across Ontario to help purchase new fire safety equipment, and has promised to continue the grants so long as there is a need.”

Since the inception of the Jenny’s Heroes, Jones has donated just over $140,000.

The high-visibility lightweight, fire-rated coveralls will be used specifically for motor vehicle collisions, grass/brush/crop or wildfires and as a change of clothes at vehicle and structure fires.

Churchill said he was thrilled when Jones personally called him in July from Los Angeles with the news that Puslinch Fire and Rescue had been selected to receive the grant.

Jones explained Jenny’s Heroes would provide at least 30 coveralls for the department. The original request was for 43 sets at a cost of $14,000.  However, due to the high number of applications, the organization offered $10,000 in order to share the funds with more departments.

Churchill’s report noted the 2019 budget does not include itemized funding for the purchase of coveralls.

It is recommended the replacement or purchase of coveralls in the future be funded from the department’s clothing/safety allowance, which has a budget of $16,550 for 2019.

Only five fire departments were selected for the 2019 spring/summer service equipment grants. These departments included: Watten Fire Department, Pikwakanagan Fire Rescue, Puslinch Fire and Rescue Service, Robinson Township Fire Department and Perry Township Fire Department.

The spring/summer grant was the largest yet due to the proven needs of Ontario’s volunteer fire departments.

Jones offered grants of up to $25,000 for an individual volunteer fire department, with grants totaling $50,000 to be awarded just in the spring/summer grant period.

“I’m always so excited to make personal calls to let each selected fire department know they are receiving the equipment they need,” Jones stated in a press release.

“And when I’m told, ‘This will definitely save lives,’ I can’t even describe the joy it brings me.”

Jones later added, “I have a profound respect for anyone who chooses a life of service to the community.”

Gomes noted coveralls had previously been issued to firefighters, but not in recent years.

He added that a number of firefighters still retain and use those coveralls.

If, in the future, more sets of coveralls were needed, Gomes said the items could be funded through the fire department budget.

Councillor Ken Roth asked about the expected lifespan of the coveralls.

Gomes said it depends on use and the number of times the items are washed.

“I still have my pair from 2003 … but I did outgrow them,” he said.

The coveralls are still available for use, but have Gomes’ badge number, which would need to be edited.

Gomes added a lot of fire departments currently issue two sets of bunker gear to their firefighters, which would be rotated every five years with new bunker gear.

The two sets of bunker gear allow for fresh sets to be on hand should the one in use become soiled or contaminated on a fire call.

He added the coveralls could be used instead of full bunker gear for certain tasks.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer asked when the township had stopped providing coveralls.

Gomes replied, “I’m not certain why it stopped, but we still have a number of staff who have these coveralls.”

Due to staff turnover, there are a number of firefighters who have not been issued coveralls.

“This is a good way to get these coveralls for free,” Gomes said.

Bulmer commented, “not exactly … as generous as this gift is, how much will it cost the department moving forward?

“In some ways it seems like a budget base increase through the side door.”

Gomes said the department intends to continue with replacements within the existing budget.

Bulmer asked whether this clothing is per individual or whether the items could be shared.

Gomes said the items would be fitted to the individual.

Bulmer asked how it would be determined who gets the new gear.

Gomes noted some firefighters still have their previous gear.

Councillor Jessica Goyda applauded the department for taking on the initiative.