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Local nonprofit raising funds for emergency personnel through its own fill the boot fundraiser

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
The Southern Oklahoma Emergency Services Foundation was at the Ardmore Lowe’s Home Improvement store this weekend raising money for emergency personnel through its spin on the Fill the Boot Campaign. The nonprofit will be back on Saturday, April 18 to collect more donations.

A local nonprofit is raising money to help support emergency personnel financially affected by COVID-19 through its own spin on the Fill the Boot Campaign.

Over the weekend, the Southern Oklahoma Emergency Services Foundation was able to raise a little over $200 while outside of the Ardmore Lowe’s Home Improvement store with a set of firefighter boots.

All of the proceeds will go back to local emergency personnel to help fund everyday operations and upkeep for equipment, said the foundation’s CEO and a former volunteer firefighter, Timothy Segler.

“That’s actually just a fire tradition that’s been around for centuries,” Segler said. “When the fire service started, the communities would get together and say, ‘Hey we need this equipment, let’s fill the boot’.”

The fill the boot tradition has since been carried on by firefighters across the nation for more than 65 years as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

With several local volunteer fire departments having to cancel fundraisers in response to COVID-19, Segler said it seemed like a creative way to help make up those funds the departments are losing from canceling those events.

Some volunteer departments are funded solely by donations and others receive a small tax base from the county in addition to an annual grant from the state of Oklahoma. However, both sources of revenue have shrunk during the pandemic, making donations vital to help keep the departments running, Segler said.

“We’re still in the midst of COVID-19 and the revenue that they’re getting from sales tax, how their donations are looking for the next month and a half— it’s important because without the funds, they’re limited on their operations,” Segler said.

On Saturday, April 18, the Southern Oklahoma Emergency Services Foundation will be back at the Ardmore Lowe’s location collecting donations in boots from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Just come out there and talk to us— education is important because a lot of people don’t know what the emergency service is or how it operates and we’ll kind of inform them,” Segler said.

Segler said the nonprofit plans to continue similar fundraisers in the future — well past the pandemic and will also be holding a one mile and 5k fun run in support of emergency personnel in September.

The organization is also still selling raffle tickets at $20 each to raise money for first responders. First prize will be a $500 gift certificate from Jerry’s Gun Shop and second prize will be a $250 gift certificate from Jerry’s Gun Shop.

Raffle tickets can be purchased by calling (580) 224-7284 or by visiting the Southern Oklahoma Emergency Services Foundation Facebook page. Tickets will also be sold at Lowe’s on Saturday.

“Times are hard and people are kind of hanging on to what they got, but they’re being generous because they know it’s going back to them because one day they might need that service,” Segler said.