Boot drive to benefit burn center

LAWRENCEVILLE - With boots in hand, Gwinnett County firefighters visited local businesses last weekend collecting donations, and this weekend fire crews will do the same.

Fire Department spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge said the departments' crews started collecting donations last weekend for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation Inc.'s "Give Burns the Boot" boot drive and will continue to raise funds this weekend beginning today.

"(People) can look for firefighters collecting throughout the community this weekend," Rutledge said. Donations can also be made at any county fire department, Rutledge added.

Funds will go to support the Foundation, helping burn victims and educating communities about fire safety.

"The money donated goes to the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation to support their efforts to help with burn centers and camp, and a small portion of the money goes back to the Fire Departments in the form of smoke detectors and fire safety education materials," Rutledge said. About 10 percent of the funds collected are given back to the department, he said.

Rutledge said items such as smoke detectors given to the department by the foundation are given to community members for free.

All 26 Gwinnett County stations will be involved in the drive, Rutledge said. The departments make up part of the approximately 100 departments in Georgia participating in the drive.

Venessa Walker, executive office manager for the foundation in Atlanta, said the overall goal for the boot fundraiser is $825,000. Walker said firefighters throughout the state raised $757,000 last year.

"It's a 10 percent increase from last year," Walker said. "Hopefully we'll make it and I'm sure we will."

Rutledge said Gwinnett has been the top fundraising department for the past two years.

"We collected over $76,000 last year and we're hoping to beat that this year," Rutledge said.

Rutledge said Gwinnett Fire Departments participate in the drive once a year, having done so for the past 18 years since the inception of the foundation's boot drive.

"The people of Gwinnett have opened their hearts and their wallets and have been really great," Rutledge said. "This helps people all over the state of Georgia who have been burned, it goes to promote burn prevention programs state-wide, purchase equipment for the burn foundation and also their camp for burn victims - Camp Oo-U-La."

Rutledge said there is no minimum donation.

"Every amount helps," Rutledge said. "We really appreciate the willingness to give."

For more information about the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation or to make a donation, call 404-320-6223.