By Darla Shelden
Citizens normally consider public safety agencies as a resource that deals with emergencies when they occur. Today, many agencies are interacting with the communities they serve, before and after emergencies, through various outreach programs.
The Aluminum Cans for Burned Children Program (ACBC) is one of many plans managed by the Oklahoma City Firefighters Association Local 157 and Quick Service Steel Co, in cooperation with the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
Established nationwide in 1988, the ACBC Program got its start locally in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Firefighters are enlisting the help of metro area businesses and citizens to save their aluminum cans to use in assisting children from newborn to 16 years old that are affected by fire.
Program operations are run by Oklahoma City Firefighters Association Local 157, which is responsible for marketing the program and administering funds to the families of burned survivors.
Program chair Ed Koch, a retired Local 157 firefighter, said, “Citizens of the entire metro area can take their aluminum cans to Oklahoma City, Bethany, Warr Acres and Nichols Hills fire stations. That’s all they have to do. We do the rest.”
Koch visits each fire station to pick up the collected aluminum cans, which he then takes to the recycling center.
“The program got started right after the Oklahoma City bombing,” said Koch. We had a group of firefighters from back east that gave us approximately $50,000 to help the children that were affected by the bombing’s blast.”
“Those firefighters explained that their whole city and its citizens were raising money by collecting aluminum cans,” Koch said.
A member of the ACBC program for 13 years, Koch recently presented a check on behalf of Local 157 for $2000 to Ebony Johnson, the mother of two children that were severely burned during an Oklahoma City area house fire last March.
“I explained to them that this is what the program is for,” said Koch. “It is also a type of therapy for firefighters to know that they can go back and visit these kids. It actually gets them more involved in the community.
“We do a lot better during the cold months because people think about fires then and our collections increase. But this is a year round program.”
Koch added, “We’re not limited to just children getting burned by fire. Children could get a scalding water burn, some type of chemical burn, or severe sunburn where they need to be medicated.
“We can get them a check pretty quickly to buy them some clothes or toys, whatever they need right then and there, so that they can get up and go to school the next morning, or play with their friends.”
Koch said the average check is approximately $1000 per child.
“As long as we have the funds, we’re going to continue to try to do what we can do,” said Koch. “We’re about recycling, but we also will accept donations.”
Businesses and citizens are encouraged to collect aluminum cans and bring them to any Oklahoma City, Bethany, Warr Acres, or Nichols Hills fire station. This effort not only helps families affected by the devastation of a fire, but also helps the environment.
In addition to gaining valuable experience interacting with the burn survivors and their families, firefighters use the opportunity to deliver fire safety messages to groups of school aged children and adults.
Oklahoma City Firefighters Association Local 157, President Phil Sipe said, “Through this program locally we have been able to assist Children’s Hospital with a playground for burned children. We’ve helped children that have been affected by fire and sent children to various burn camps in Oklahoma.
“We were able to make a donation to Bethany Fire Department for a thermal imager and assisted the Project Life Program to purchase smoke detectors for citizens that can’t afford them.”
The ACBC Program is maintained yearly and continuously because fire can affect children anytime.
For more information about the Aluminum Cans for Burned Children Program or for a list of metro fire station locations, call 405-232-9543.
Local firefighters collect aluminum cans to benefit children affected by fire
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