South Charleston firefighter Derrek Bays (left) helps Assistant Fire Chief Virgil White and EMT Nik Fought load stuffed animals into a fire truck at their main station Thursday. The teddy bears are kept in the fire trucks to give to children who are involved in house fires, automobile accidents and other traumatic experiences.
Judy Lowe of the First Presbyterian Church of South Charleston helps Fought, White and Bays prepare teddy bears Thursday.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston firefighters are making room in their trucks for a different type of equipment: teddy bears.SCFD Assistant Chief Virgil White has teamed up with the First Presbyterian Church to provide stuffed animals to children who have suffered trauma."They might have lost everything in a house fire or have been involved in a car wreck or lost a loved one due to a medical problem," White said. "Any call that we respond to and a child is involved, we're going to give these to help comfort them."The fire department has about 75 stuffed animals and is hoping the community will donate a lot more. Firefighters at the four stations in the South Charleston area will keep the gifts in their fire trucks so they can be handed out whenever a child needs one.Firefighters with the Station I firehouse responded to about seven house fires this year and hundreds of wrecks, Virgil said. Many involved children."Just seeing the look on their face when they're in distress makes you want to comfort them as much as possible," Virgil said. "It might sound simple, but a teddy bear can act as a security blanket and make kids feel a little better during a bad time."
The First Presbyterian Church of South Charleston wrapped each stuffed animal and labeled them with Bible verses."This is a simple way to help. They'll have something to hug and take their mind off of the situation just for a little bit," said Judy Lowe, a First Presbyterian member leading the effort. "Maybe a child will open up a Bible and find a lot more comfort there."The teddy-bear drive also is a way for firefighters to better connect with the community, Virgil said."We want people to know we're not just here to run calls and take care of the bad things -- we're here for good things, too," said Virgil, who was promoted to assistant chief in June. "It puts people at ease when there are emergency situations, because we're familiar faces."For information on how to help, visit www.wwjdpresby.com
or call 304-744-2333.Stuffed animal donations can be sent to the church, at 508 Second Ave., South Charleston.Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5100.