Ten cook-off teams participated in the first annual “Rock the Block” Chili Cook-off, through the Conroe Professional Firefighters Association, to help raise money for the Association’s Coats for Kids program.
The Cook-off was held Sunday, Oct. 20, at Pacific Yard House restaurant on Metcalf Street in downtown Conroe.
Lloyd Sandefer, president of the Firefighters Association, said the management at Pacific Yard House reached out to the Firefighters Association and they really wanted to do something to help raise money for the Association. They came up with the idea for the Rock the Block Chili Cook-off to help raise money for Coats for Kids.
“Coats for Kids is a program that we adopted about seven years ago,” Sandefer said. “It’s a program that we get with the Conroe Independent School District schools here in our local area and they identify the kids that are in the lower income, kids that show up to school on cold days without any winter coats.”
Sandefer said they take a sizing kit to those schools, and the counselors and the staff pick the kids who qualify for the program.
“They then bring the kids in and they actually try on a coat,” Sandefer said. “They get a specific size, and when those schools turn in a sheet, that has the kids’ names and what size they want, their gender and the color they want, we order those coats, brand new.”
The Association delivers the coats on a fire truck.
“When we give the coats to them, we write their name on the inside. There’s a tag on the inside of the coat where we write their name,” Sandefer said. “Out of all the charitable stuff that we do every year, it’s by far my favorite. We do a lot of things, a lot of fundraisers throughout the year, where we donate money to specific causes, which we know the money goes to really good causes and we feel good about it. This is one of the programs that we do that we see the endgame. We see directly where the coats go and we communicate and interact with the children.”
Sandefer said they provided about 300 coats to kids last year. When they first started, they provided between 80 and 100 coats, and it’s just grown every year.
“The reason we’re here today is because there’s an expense to that,” Sandefer said. “We actually purchase the coats, they’re not donated, so there’s money involved. There’s a lot of times where we will fall short with the money, and there’s been companies, like Buckalew Chevrolet and First Financial, and there’s been guys that have really stepped up and helped us finish paying the bill off for that.”
A lot of planning ahead is needed as the number of coats grows every year.
“We’re trying to plan ahead of time, and raise a little bit of money,” Sandefer said. Every year this program grows further and further, and we reach more and more schools. The more kids we reach out to, the more kids we impact, the more money we need.”
The Conroe Firefighters Foundation is the non-profit side of the Firefighters Association, and is responsible for putting together all the charitable activities, like the Coats for Kids program.
“They can focus on what they do and we can focus more on the charitable side, so that we can kind of grow that over the years so the charitable side can get bigger,” Foundation President David Thompson said.
Thompson said they are working on some new charitable programs that are in the beginning stages.
“They’re trying to put together some beneficiary cards,” Thompson said. “A lot of times when we make house fires in the middle of the night, and maybe a family doesn’t have the means to go stay in a hotel or go buy some new clothes. They’re trying to put together a program so they can get with the Red Cross or some other relief programs that are already involved in the city, just to carry them over through the night, maybe a couple of days.”