Community NewsThe Giving Project


The Greater Tucson Fire Foundation supplies free health and wellness resources for firefighters

Posted: 1:30 PM, Jun 01, 2022
Updated: 2022-06-02 15:26:44-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — KGUN 9 spotlights a different local non-profit on the first Wednesday of every month. With Wildfires so prevalent in our region, this month we're focusing on the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

It's the latest installment of The Giving Project—Doing Well, by Doing Good.

The Foundation exists to support the needs of the firefighting community, providing firefighters and their families with health and wellness services.

Mike McKendrick, a retired 30-year veteran of the Tucson Fire Department, has been the chair of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation for the past decade. He knows first hand about the struggles of firefighters and helps the foundation fulfill its mission.

McKendrick says the Foundation works to "explore the gaps and work to fill the gaps in firefighter health and wellness. Specifically cardiac, cancer and mental health. The three main killers of firefighters. Then we have fitness and wellness in there, and they're all tied together."

"Thank you for being crazy enough to run into a fire when everybody else is running out. The foundation is an opportunity for the community to say thank you."

~ Mike McKendrick, Greater Tucson Fire Foundation Chair

Part of that mission of filling gaps includes helping with things like co-pays and also providing resources to the 1,850 firefighters they serve throughout the Tucson region.

"When you have a healthy firefighter, you have someone who is able to better serve the community."

~ Rorie Johnston, Greater Tucson Fire Foundation Executive Director

Executive Director Rorie Johnston says their biggest challenge is getting the firefighters to reach out for help, especially when it comes to mental health services.

"Having the ability to say 'I need to speak with someone,' comfortably...that is a stigma we want to break down," said Johnston. "That's a barrier we want to breakdown."

"How does the hero say he needs help?"

~ Jen Isom, Sequoia Springs Trauma Healing Center Therapist

Jen Isom, a therapist with the non-profit Sequoia Springs Trauma Healing Center, works with the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation. She offers her services to firefighters and their families, an area of emphasis for the Fire foundation.

"Sleep debt, difficulties with parenting and co-parenting when your person's gone half the month, coming back into the home. That's what I see a lot of initially, are people just having a hard time with their relationship" said Isom.

Helping to pay for these services is where the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation comes in: With an all-volunteer staff, over 90 % of every dollar they raise goes directly to programming.

The Foundation's main source of fundraising comes from a once-a-month estate sale at their Safe Shift store, at 2801 E. Grant Rd., next to Fire Station No. 5. The store is only open the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each month. This month, the sale dates are June 2 - 4, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

For information on Safe Shift, text (preferred) or call: (520) 603-3055

"Quality items, estate items, collectibles, things that you use in your home," said Johnston of the store's merchandise. "If it's in your home and you're able to use it, chances are you'll find it in our store and available for sale."

We invite you to consider making a donation to the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation. Even $5 or $10 will made a difference.

The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, our partner in the Giving Project, is matching the first $500 in donations this June.

Safe Shift Estate Sale:

Patty Vallance was a founding member of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, credited as "the moving force behind her beloved Greater Tucson Fire Foundation and its Endowment Fund— which she assisted in seeding by providing the funding through her estate. Numerous programs were established as a result of her foresight and generosity," according to the Foundation's website.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.