Vancouver firefighters warm up needy

Eighth annual coat drive continues at Westside Station 2

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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Donations can be left at the Westside Fire Station, 400 E. 37th St., off Main Street, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

America’s Self Storage, 108 N.W. 139th St. in Salmon Creek, is accepting donations from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Capt. Matt Krussow said the Vancouver department is looking for more donations of children’s and women’s coats.

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Last year, firefighters collected more than 3,000 coats for needy people. In 2004, the first year of the drive, they collected 700 coats.

Vancouver Fire Department’s eighth annual coat drive is in full swing, despite being in a bit of a transition as personnel changes hit the Westside Fire Station 2.

The drive, which started in November and ends Jan. 1, is on track to get about as many donated items as previous years, Capt. Matt Krussow said Tuesday.

Duane Schuman, who founded the drive in 2004 as a captain at Westside Fire Station 2, left earlier this year when he was promoted to battalion chief on the east side of Vancouver.

Krussow took the helm this year.

Schuman is grateful that Krussow is keeping things rolling.

“It’s one of the things I hated to see leaving that area,” Schuman said.

Turnover may put a few snags in the drive from the fire department’s side but it’s hard to stop the momentum after seven years.

Krussow said several folks stopped by the station, near the Main Street Safeway, before the fire department officially kicked off the drive. After several years, people know about the drive, he said.

Truckloads

Since then, firefighters have delivered three pickup truckloads with somewhere around 150 donated coats to two Vancouver shelters and the Portland Rescue Mission.

“I think it’s been going very well,” Krussow said of this year’s drive. “We had some of the usuals that bring big loads of clothes,” and quite a few others dropped off coats and blankets.

Things are also looking good at the drive’s new pick-up location: America’s Self Storage in Salmon Creek.

The storage place at 108 N.W. 139th St. partnered with Vancouver fire last year, but 2011 will be the first time it works with the fire department for the entire length of the drive, manager Toni Wilson said.

So far it has collected about five times as many items as last year from people in the community and storage customers, Wilson said.

“It’s time for us to help our neighbors,” she said. “There are a lot of people that are economically challenged.”

Wilson expects the drive will become an annual tradition at her workplace, too.

In previous years, coats and blankets were taken to the YWCA, Share House, Open House Ministries, Homestead Shelter, Jason Lee Middle and Hough, Washington and Fruit Valley elementary schools. Lutheran Community Services referred clients to the fire station.