Local merchants rally to donate raffle items for this Sunday’s event at SMCC
What started out as the brainchild of former Stewart Manor Fire Department Chief Danny O’Keefe back in 2004 to deliver donated gifts to returning war heroes has evolved into a year-round philanthropic effort.
Indeed, the Nassau County Firefighter’s Operation Wounded Warrior (NCFF-OWW) has grown to include 38 fire departments. The nonprofit 501(c)3 organization works to provide necessary items, as well as gifts, to wounded men and women from all branches of the U.S. Military.
“It’s a tremendous organization … every proceed goes to the soldiers,” said SMFD Assistant Chief Thomas Skinner. Each of the 38 departments hosts its own events throughout the year, and all proceeds go into a central fund. The SMFD is working this week to put the finishing touches on its inaugural OWW pancake breakfast, to be held on Sunday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Stewart Manor Country Club (SMCC), located at 51 Salisbury Ave. in Stewart Manor.
Skinner and others in the department have reached out to many local businesses to help make the event a success. Merchants along Covert and Tulip avenues have donated everything from haircut and manicure gift cards to higher priced raffle items such as a $150 jewelry gift card. Park Place Restaurant on Covert Avenue in Floral Park donated $2,000 worth of gift cards, Skinner said.
The SMCC has donated the venue as well as use of its kitchen. SMCC staff members will be on hand to set up for the event. Local scout troops have volunteered their time to clean up throughout the morning and will earn service hour credits for their volunteerism. The International House of Pancakes on Willis Avenue in Williston Park has agreed to provide 1,500 pancakes, sausage, eggs, butter and syrup and McDonald’s on Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square will donate 500 pancakes.
Tickets can be purchased at the door throughout the morning. The cost is $10 per adult and $5 per child. Guests can also purchase raffle tickets, which will cost either $1 or $2, as well as 50/50 raffle tickets. The SMFD plans to sell T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts with the NCFF-OWW logo on them, as well.
All proceeds will go toward what has become known as “The Big Red Line.” Back in 2004, O’Keefe, who was soon joined by former SMFD captain and Marine veteran Bill Grogan, distributed flyers asking residents to drop off donated items for wounded warriors at Stewart Manor Village Hall. The duo was soon joined by other volunteers, and the small group loaded up one vehicle with donations and headed down to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in December of that year. As NCFF-OWW picked up steam, that single vehicle grew into a caravan of fire apparatus and chiefs’ cars from departments across Nassau County. The volunteers set out on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, each year on a five-day pilgrimage. They spend two days in Fort Bragg, two days at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, also in North Carolina, then one day at Bethesda Medical Center in Maryland.
“It’s very emotional,” said Skinner, adding that the veterans and their families are overwhelmed with gratitude but it’s really “us who are down there to thank them.”
The real message behind the material goods the organization delivers to veterans is how much their service to our country is appreciated. “The biggest part is that these guys know that someone is there … that they can reach out and get help if they need it,” Skinner said.
In addition to supporting events like this Sunday’s pancake breakfast, people can donate to NCFF-OWW at any time. Tax-deductible donations can be made payable to Nassau County Fire Fighter’s Operation Wounded Warrior, and can be mailed to NCFF-OWW, 120 Covert Avenue, Stewart Manor, NY 11530. Proceeds go directly toward the purchase of items for wounded warriors. Additional information can be found at http://www. ncff-oww.com.