Martin Walton, a captain with the Lunenburg and district volunteer fire department, and a handful of other first-response colleagues, helped create a new registered charity to alleviate the monetary burden on individual firefighters and their families dealing with sickness or personal life-changing medical emergencies.
The Nova Scotia Firefighters Benevolent Fund (NSFBF) provides financial support to firefighters and their families in times of acute crisis. The Canada Revenue Agency told LighthouseNOW the NSFBF is registered under the category of the relief of poverty, with the purpose of relieving poverty by providing basic necessities of life to firefighters and their families who are in need.
"We were sitting around discussing various fire service issues, and the topic of rural firefighters having to spend hours on the road travelling to medical appointments in the city came up. We talked it over and, being a group of empathetic guys, we decided to do something to make it easier for firefighters and their families. Here we are, more than a year later, and [it's] a reality." Walton, the NSFBF president, told LighthouseNOW in an email.
Although many firefighters are covered by the provincial workers compensation, there may be times where funds are needed urgently or when coverage is lacking or non-existent.
"For many men and women, this meant covering the cost of these unexpected out-of-pocket expenses," Walton explained.
"Dealing with health issues is challenging enough without the added worry of how you are going to pay for fuel, parking, meals and other costs incurred travelling to appointments or treatments at Halifax area hospitals. Some firefighters in Cape Breton, for instance, are on the road for more than 10 hours, round trip. Winter road conditions can exacerbate this already stressful situation."
Walton, along with Dave Robb, the deputy fire chief in Lunenburg, Bridgewater's deputy fire chief Andy Wentzell, Dayspring volunteer firefighter Peter Simpson, and Will Brooks, a founder and past president of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, are members of the NSFBF founding board of directors. A disbursement committee will consider requests for funding - and amounts - based on specific criteria.
To learn more, and how to donate, check out https://sites.google.com/nsfbf.com/home/our-mission on the internet.
"Our goal is to provide financial assistance to as many firefighters in need as possible, so fundraising becomes a crucial component of our work going forward. We appeal to community-minded people across Nova Scotia to consider donating," Walton said.
Sylvie Branch, a spokeswoman for the Canada Revenue Agency, suggested registering a charity takes a lot of work. It's "a comprehensive process, which includes in-depth research and analysis of an organization's structure and mode of operation," she told LighthouseNOW in an email. "This process is a critical component of safeguarding the integrity of the charitable sector in Canada."
South Shore-St. Margaret's MP Bernadette Jordan was delighted to hear about a charity born in her riding.
"My sincere congratulations to the team," she said in a statement released to LighthouseNOW by her office. "Thank you to Martin Walton ... and founders for your hard work. You make our community proud."
On a personal level, Walton said, it's rewarding and humbling to be able to help fellow firefighters in a meaningful way.
"Seeing [them] in need is a heartbreaking thing. We are quite good at fundraising for our communities, but often not for ourselves."