The partnership between a firefighter holding a boot on a central community corner with citizens passing through has history beyond most of our memories. Motorists approach intersections, sometimes seeing the parked fire engine or ambulance first, other times seeing the firefighter eagerly approaching the vehicles and collecting donations for that particular day’s worthy cause. “Fill the Boot” campaigns have been completed by hundreds of both volunteer and paid fire departments throughout the United States every year since 1954.
These fund raising campaigns raise millions of dollars for all kinds of causes. The most common mission with the firefighter filling the boot is to earn money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) research. Different departments complete these fund raising campaigns throughout the year based on scheduling with the MDA. In some cases, a fire department uses the “Fill the Boot” campaign for funds that will directly benefit the fire department to purchase necessary supplies, which otherwise would be purchased with tax dollars. Some smaller fire departments use these donations to purchase equipment to increase the response ability so they can better serve their community. In other cases, departments use the “Fill the Boot” campaign to raise money for a community event, such as a holiday parade or open house.
Whatever the reason for the fund-raising activity, this kind of event gives the firefighters a unique opportunity to converse with the community members in a non-emergency setting. It is often said that emergency responders such as fire and police often meet people on their worst days. Most citizens don’t typically request the response of emergency responders for good reasons. Interacting with the community in a positive, relaxed way helps the firefighters build and increase a trust level with residents with whom they come in contact. These interactions might prove to be beneficial in the future when first responders and citizens are thrown together in emergency situations.
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