Fire department offers program to help residents in need
Mint Hill resident Pat Haire doesn’t have many blood relatives left. But she tells everyone she has a large local family: the members of the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department.
And it’s all thanks to the department’s three-year-old program Mint Hill Cares.
Firefighters used donated funds from the program last year to build a wooden, handicap-accessible ramp for the Haires outside their front door. It was a lifesaver for Pat, who was then caring for her husband, Van, 81, who had a lot of ailments including Alzheimer’s and trouble getting around. She’d call the fire department frequently to help get him in and out of the house or help him up after a fall when she couldn’t lift him. Van Haire, a retired Charlotte police officer who went by “Cub,” died in March, about six months after the ramp was complete. But Pat Haire says the gesture was a lifesaver for their last few months together. The couple were married for 60 years and had two children.
“They kind of gave us our life back,” she said. “We went somewhere everyday. He’d get up and say ‘Where are we going today?’ I can’t thank them enough. I just love them like family.”
And while some people bake cookies or a cake to say ‘thank you,’ Haire wanted to go a step further. Knowing how much firefighters love to cook, she bought and hand delivered pork loins to the fire station after the ramp was complete last September.
Though Mint Hill firefighters have pitched in to help residents before, the Mint Hill Cares program was launched three years ago to provide an organized way to help the community, volunteer firefighter and program organizer Tom Lott said. The only requirement is that Mint Hill must be called to an emergency for the person needing help. That’s how firefighters and medics find out about the needs.
“What kind of hit us is when we say ‘We’re done,’ and leave a scene, it’s just the beginning for these families,” Lott said. “The intent is to really help out people where maybe we can help somebody get back on their feet. It gives them some hope to say, ‘Here’s some people that really care.’”
Department members are encouraged to be on the lookout when they respond to an emergency for other ways they can help beyond the call, Fire Chief John Phillips said. In the past three years, the department has built two wooden handicap-accessible ramps, bought holiday gifts for children whose house was damaged by fire, refurbished a vehicle to make it handicap accessible and provided food for area residents in need.
“We encourage (firefighters) to ask ‘Do you have all you need here?’ and look around to see if they’re low on food, or have other needs,” Phillips said. “It’s always good to be able to perform some type of service after the emergency. It’s letting people know that we care. When we’re out there, we represent more than the fire department — we represent the community.”
And Haire now wholeheartedly believes in her community. She uses the department-built ramp herself and enjoys stopping by the department to visit her newfound family.
“It’s so much easier going up and down that ramp with my arms full of groceries than using the stairs,” she said. “I had no idea (the fire department) did stuff like this. I was totally surprised. I just can’t sing enough praises for them.”
Want to help?
To donate to the Mint Hill Cares program, send a check payable to the nonprofit Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department to P.O. Box 23065, Charlotte, NC 28227. Write “Mint Hill Cares” in the memo line.
For more information, call 704-545-4866.