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A Raffle Brings Community Together by Gillian Dalman

A Raffle Brings Community Together by Gillian Dalman


My parents are volunteer firefighters. We live in a small rural valley in Nevada, the driest and least populated state in the nation. Without out volunteer firefighters the inhabitants of our valley would be defenseless against the frequent summer brush fires and helpless during a medical crisis. Any professional help is over an hour away, much too long during an emergency. So when it comes down to it my parents are vital to the survival of our quiet valley community.

This role they fill, however, is very wearing. Playing hero is not an easy job, especially when you still have to have a paying job on the side. I watch my mom and dad poor their energy into the fire department. My mother, a house cleaner, has often pulled all-nighters fighting a fire and then still gone to work the next day. She can spend entire weeks like this; no rest, her every muscle aching, driven entirely by adrenaline. She somehow manages to be the best home cleaner in our valley, the assistant fire chief, and my wonderful mother all at the same time. And my father, an incredibly intelligent man, balances his plumbing job with the demands of the fire department as well. He's always either coordinating with our local Community Emergency Response Team (also known as the C.E.R.T.) or fixing the massive fire trucks and he still succeeds within his professional career. In fact, both of my parents do their jobs, both professional and volunteer, so well that it invites bitterness. People tend to dislike those who work hard.

It is actually quite surprising how few thanks my parents and the other volunteer firefighters receive. For people who devote all their free time to a life-endangering, stress-inducing job they are incredibly overlooked. I watch people shrug off the contributions to the fire department frequently. They seem unwilling to grasp just how much my parents and their friends sacrifice for the well-being of the valley denizens. And the citizens are not the only ones. The state funding that our fire station is given each year for gear, maintenance, and training is exponentially decreasing every year. Suddenly all the classes that the volunteer firefighters took to teach them different medical and fire lessons are no longer paid for by the state. My parents are shilling out their own money now, money they do not have, to protect the ungrateful people in my valley.

But do they ever complain? No, not once. My parents are saints with endless pools of hope and courage. But despite their lack of disappointment towards our community I could see the physical toll this stress was causing them. When I first realized how much they had aged from joining the department I grew scared. My parents are not young, and stress kills. We're my parents digging their own graves with their selflessness? This dedication was not healthy; I knew I needed to interfere. But I could hardly ask them to stop. Being a firefighter has been my mom's passion since she was five! There had to be a way to help them relax without making them quit.

I decided that appreciation would help de-stress them. Being genuinely thanked for the job they do would let them know what a good job they are doing and take the edge off. Every year the fire department holds a fundraising barbecue. People come, despite their indifference or dislike towards the department, because the closest restaurant is an hour away. They grudgingly buy a burger, quietly sit in our hot Nevadan heat, and then retreat back to their home. It is the same agonizing routine every year. Until I changed it.

Before I continue my story I want you to understand how excited I was when I found this scholarship. Not only did I feel strongly about raffle tickets but also I had a significant experience with them! You see, to make the volunteer firefighters more approachable and therefore likable, I created a raffle contest at the barbecue. I figured that it was an engaging way to shake off the dull tradition of past barbecues and I hoped that the winners could look at their prizes in the future and fondly remember the fire department. It was not the perfect way to get my parents the reprieve they needed but it was all I could think of.

I took charge, I called the casinos and spas in town and explained what I was doing and asked if they would like to contribute. A great number of them were more than willing to coupons or deals to raffle off. I was also able to get some camping and hunting supplies from nearby sporting stores that were eager to donate to a volunteer organization. With these items my raffle became incredibly competitive. I watched as the quiet hicks in my valley actually had fun fighting over raffle tickets. By the end of the barbecue the fire department had more money than ever before and an aura of relaxation. For once something fun had happened here. My parents were the calmest I had seen them in years, laughing and smiling, content. The raffle had brought our community together for once. It strengthened the fire department and the volunteers' morale. Finally all the suffering and hard work was worth something.

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Contributed by Gillian Dalman

December 17, 2015