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Racine Fire Bells receive Sam’s Club grant; still seeking funds due to canceled events
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Racine Fire Bells receive Sam’s Club grant; still seeking funds due to canceled events

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Sam's Club employees and Racine Fire Bells

Two Sam's Club employees, far right, pose with members of the Racine Fire Bells, left, with Santa Claus at the Sam's Club at 3300 Brumback Boulevard in Somers, in early December. Scott Pedersen, treasurer for the Fire Bells said the group waited until snow started falling for the picture because they wanted it to be unique.

SOMERS — The Racine Fire Bells, Inc. have not had any fundraisers since the pandemic began last March. Its annual golf outing and other events didn’t happen.

Sam’s Club, through Walmart Giving, presented a $2,000 grant to the nonprofit recently. This grant will allow the Fire Bells to continue to provide rehabilitation services to first responders in southeastern Wisconsin.

Scott Pedersen, treasurer for the Fire Bells, said the money will go into the general fund for the club. While the club is very thankful for the grant, he said, the club is still searching for more funds.

A GoFundMe with a goal of $8,000 was established about four months ago. Money will go to the general fund once again, which will most likely go toward new equipment and a vehicle.

Through both in-kind and cash gifts, Walmart, the Walmart Foundation and Sam’s Club give more than $1 billion annually to projects that create opportunity, enhance sustainability and strengthen community, according to the corporate Sam’s Club website.

Nonprofit organizations can obtain funds through Sam’s Club’s Community Grant Program. These grants are available year-round and range from $250 to $2,500. Sam’s Club associates approve the grants for the respective areas the nonprofits are located in.

Sam’s Club is proud of community giving, the website said.

“We believe we make the greatest difference by supporting causes that are important to our members and associates,” the website said.

The Fire Bells applied for the grant in September and received it in early December.

In December, Sam’s Club associates at the location at 3300 Brumback Boulevard, Somers, posed for a photo with members of the Fire Bells and Santa Claus.

Putting in a ‘big push’

The roughly 50 members of the Bells operate three specially equipped “rehab units” that respond via pager to a jurisdiction comprising 1,000 square miles.

Rehab units provide emergency personnel with fluid replenishment, food when called for, a warming area in cold conditions and a cooling area in warm, humid conditions. Support includes providing dry gloves, socks, core cooler chairs, misting fans, propane heaters and shelter from the elements.

“We’re customers there. We buy a lot of the rehab stuff — such as food and drinks — at that Sam’s Club,” Pedersen said.

In two years, it’ll be the Bells’ 75th anniversary.

“We’re going to put in a big push and lay the groundwork with the virus,” Pedersen said. “Everybody needs new stuff. It’s a good year to have a campaign to replace items that we’ve had for many years.”

The Racine Fire Bells serve Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties. The volunteer organization was founded in 1948 by members who worked out of the trunks of their cars. The first canteen unit was obtained in 1965.

If someone older tells you “it was harder back in my day,” they probably weren’t talking about retirement, as younger generations now face some extra hurdles when it comes to retiring. PennyGem’s Justin Kircher has more.

Additionally, the Fire Bells preserve the history of firefighting in Racine through the Firehouse 3 Museum, which opened in 1977. The Racine Fire Bells are a 501©3 non-profit organization.

“As nonprofits, everybody’s struggling right now,” Pedersen said.

Donations can be mailed to Racine Fire Bells, Inc., P.O. Box 081042, Racine, WI 53408 or can be submitted online at charity.gofundme.com/pass-the-boot-for-the-bells-2020-edition.

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