When a home catches fire, Billings firefighters don't just put out the blaze.
For the past year, Firefighters Union Local 521 has also been helping those families get back on their feet.
"The goal is to help people in the community," Union President Dan Cotrell said. "To help people right away if they're involved in a life-altering situation."
With funds from the Rich Duval Benevolent Fund, the firefighters' union has been providing about $200 per person, per family in Target gift cards to help residents whose homes have burned down, those who need a little help with family troubles, like extended illness, and the families of firefighters.
"It's right away," Cotrell said. "A lot of people have insurance, but there's a 24-, 48- or 72-hour lag. We'd like to help with that effort."
The gift cards allow the families to immediately get items such as clothing and toiletries in the wake of a disaster.
So far this year, the union has provided more than $10,800 to families and groups in need. It gave $2,500 to victims of the Prickett Lane fire in April, $1,000 to Huntley Project High School after the school burned down this fall and a total of $4,000 to families whose homes burned in the past two weeks.
It has also given about $200 to a city employee whose son was suffering from a long-term illness, $300 to firefighters outside of the Billings area and $1,000 to last week's Roaddogs Toy Run.
"It's been nice to be able to do that," Cotrell said. "It's just something for them to get by on for a week or so."
The fund is named for Rich Duval, a Billings firefighter who died in a car wreck years ago. It was initially set up as a scholarship, but has morphed into the benevolent fund over the past few years, Cotrell said.
Money for the fund now comes from an annual fundraiser put on by Local 521 called the Gun-A-Day Raffle, held in September, which raffles off guns provided by Scheels. The last raffle raised about $30,000 for the Rich Duval Benevolent Fund.
Tickets for the next raffle, which begins on Sept. 1 , will be on sale beginning Jan. 16 at the Great Rockies Sport Show - formerly the MORE Show - at MetraPark. They will be $25 each and only 3,000 will be available. Local 521, Scheels, KCTR and City Brew are sponsoring the raffle.
Contact Zach Benoit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1357.