Helping hands

Decatur Fire and Rescue Chief Ninetta Violante said it’s important for the department to give back to the community any way it can.

Local fire department getting involved during holidays

Decatur Fire and Rescue Chief Ninetta Violante said she was taught by her mother how to help others. Whether it was helping someone carry groceries to the car or opening a door, the gesture was never too small, Violante said.

The same lessons Violante learned as a child are the lessons she said she wants to pass on to her department.

“There’s so much turmoil and negativity and divisiveness. If you can connect with just one person who you can help,” Violante said. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position and come up with ideas of how we can be better and do better.”

One way the Decatur Fire and Rescue Department gets involved is by holding a year-round canned food drive to support the Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry (DREAM).

The department kicks up can collection efforts during the holidays, Violante said.

Kamisha Sims with the Decatur Fire and Rescue Department holds some of the donated items collected by the department.

Kamisha Sims with the Decatur Fire and Rescue Department holds some of the donated items collected by the department.

DREAM provides emergency assistance for individuals who cannot financially afford food, medication or utility bills.

The organization also provides groceries and supplies for three meals for three days for all family members once per month as well as hygiene products such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and toilet paper.   

Violante said the department collected more than 800 pounds of canned items for the organization last year.

“It’s something really simple and easy to do and it makes us feel good and the residents feel good,” Violante said.

“As a department, we’re here to meet the needs of residents. As a city, we want to make residents happy about living in the city. If that means we have to dig a hole for this plant, then their need is our job.”

Violante said it can be difficult, at times, to get firefighters to buy into her giving-back philosophy. She said she enjoys hiring firefighters with a community-first mindset.

“It’s sometimes frustrating because people want to come to a fire department and fight fires. They have that traditional image of what a hero is,” Violante said. “You can be a daily hero by helping the community. It’s a challenge and it’s harder, but I think it’s equally important. We’re trying to do more than just firefighting.”

Along with collecting canned food, the department also delivered holiday gifts to Decatur residents through the Season of Giving program. The program allows residents to purchase up to $100 worth of items for a senior or child.

According to Decatur Rescue Fire and Rescue personnel, donated canned food can be delivered to Decatur fire station No. 1, fire station No. 2 or the Decatur recreation center.

“This allows residents to come into the station and see what it looks like. I think that’s good because I want them to see where we live and work and it allows for interaction with the community that’s not emergency scenarios,” Violante said.




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