OAKRIDGE, Ore. — Like so many good things in life, this one started with a profound act of kindness. A remarkable gift was given to the City of Oakridge in the summer of 2011. A Texas couple on the the Secret Millionaire TV show gave hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The school district, the town’s clinic and every single resident received cash. One of the largest recipients was the Oakridge Fire Department, which got $400,000.
Fast forward two years and it was time to pay the kindness back to the world. The fire department, along with the city council, donated an old ambulance to a doctor in Grants Pass. The doctor, in turn, gave the vehicle to a clinic in the African nation of the Congo.
But once they’d caught the giving bug, the fire department kept on going. Now, instead of paying things back, they’re paying things forward.
Oakridge firefighter and paramedic Patrick Frare started calling fire departments around the state. His initial goal was to fill the donated ambulance with medical supplies, but he’s done that and more. He’s reached out to at least 50 departments across the state, and nearly all of them have given something.
“It’s hard keeping track of all of them,” Frare said.
Frare says a lot of the equipment is in great shape. It’s just been replaced with newer equipment or protocols have changed. Frare says it’s all worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Frare’s boss, Chief Albert Alcalde, says he isn’t surprised by the generosity.
“I’ve been all over the country. And Oregon firefighters, they have a history of doing that kind of thing, very committed to doing projects like that,” Alcalde said.
And in case you’re wondering, Frare has never been to Africa, though he says he would like to visit. So why does he do it?
“Helping people. I mean, if you look at just about anybody in the fire service, it all boils down to helping people. We want to help our community. And helping another human being, it’s the decent thing to do. And the reward feeling we all get from doing this it’s fantastic,” Frare said.
He says if he can keep getting donations, he’ll send a shipping container every year or two.
“I don’t see it stopping,” Frare said.
If you or your organization are interested in helping out, contact Frare at the Oakridge Fire Department at 541-782-2416 or on the department’s Facebook page. Checks are also accepted at the Oakridge Fire Department. They can be made out to “Oakridge Volunteer Firefighters” with “Congo” written in the memo line.