To the rescue: Moses Lake firefighters foundation grows in difficult times
Mike Miner, founder of Firefighters for Kids, poses at Fire Station 1 in Moses Lake.
Firefighters for Kids served 150 kids in Hayden, Idaho for Christmas in 2019.
A table of toys at the Moses Lake Salvation Army in December, 2016.
Firefighters for Kids preparing donations for Christmas, 2018 at Fire Station 1 in Moses Lake, WA.
Firefighters for Kids Columbia Basin chapter president Jeremy Garrett sits with kids at the Union Gospel Misson women and children's shelter in Pasco, WA.
Firefighters for Kids poses with foster kids in Spokane Valley in December, 2016.
Staff Writer | April 8, 2021 1:00 AM
When a February fire gutted an entire house and displaced a family of five in Rathdrum, Idaho, Moses Lake firefighter Mike Miner got a call.
Through his organization, Firefighters for Kids, he and his team provided the Sager family with gift certificates, food, clothing, toys and more.
Miner’s been doing this work for almost as long as he’s been a firefighter.
He started Firefighters for Kids in 2005 at a little volunteer station in Morgan Acres outside of Spokane, Miner said. It was pretty simple. He, his team and their families collected donations – stickers, books, toys – and brought them to the Ronald McDonald House and Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. From there, it only expanded.
Miner commutes to work from Spokane, where that first chapter started. At home, he takes calls and serves facilities in Spokane and Pend Oreille counties and even north Idaho, where the Sager family was affected.
With his team in Moses Lake and his colleague, Jeremy Garrett, in the Tri-Cities, the Columbia Basin chapter was formed about two years ago, Miner said.
Now, Firefighters for Kids raises money for medical supplies, natural disaster aid and fire safety awareness. Every Easter, firefighters hand out baskets, and every Christmas they hand out stockings for kids in need.
“It just blew up to where we were about to pay a lot out of pocket or quit. We didn’t want to quit, we wanted to get bigger, at least I wanted to,” Miner said. “I wanted to do something bigger and bigger, and we were helping maybe 60 kids when we first started, and now for Christmas alone last year, without doing anything for Easter, we hit just under 600 kids.”
Miner said he has felt this calling since he was young.
“Growing up, dude, I just always wanted to be a fireman,” he said. “I had a couple things that really hit when I was younger. My mom passed away when I was 15. We had always had emergencies with her or times when we needed to call 911, and the firemen came and took care of me along with my mom.”
When she passed, Miner’s wrestling and football coaches also brought food and hung out and helped him through, he said.
Later on, he and his football team brought practice jerseys to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Spokane and talked to the kids, he said.
All of these influences led Miner to Firefighters for Kids, he said.
“It made me realize little stuff makes a difference, little changes toward a positive direction when you’re going through something real real bad,” he said.
Of all he gives to kids, he strives for that feeling he got when he was younger to be among them, he said.
“Maybe they wanted to be a (firefighter) and they’re going to save lives some day because of what we did with Firefighters for Kids,” Miner said.
Like all organizations, this past year has been the hardest.
On a normal year, Miner gathers the whole station and their families – 20 to 30 people – to help out with Christmas donations. In 2020, because of COVID-19 restrictions, they had five people, extra sanitation work and a single day to do it all.
They had to skip Easter and almost shut down Christmas, Miner said. Still, they helped more kids last year than any previously.
“We hit the most kids last year with the least amount of money and the most stringent rules,” Miner said.
This year, he hopes to hop back on the saddle with full-fledged Christmas events at the Ronald McDonald House, women’s and children’s shelters of the Union Gospel Mission and others.
Given the influence Miner’s coaches had on him, he also plans to donate sports equipment or sponsor kids in need to attend camp.
Down the line, he even wants to start his own wrestling and football camps in poverty stricken areas, free to kids in need.
Firefighters for Kids will continue to expand, Miner said. There’s always more than can be done.
“We see so much tragedy in our work, so if we can help out as much as we can on the scene obviously we are going to do it, but we have a job to do. We have to go back to the firehouse. There’s only so much we can do,” he said. “So off duty, if we can do anything, then heck yeah, let’s do it.”
To donate, visit ffs4kids.org.
Sam Fletcher can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.