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Babylon ‘Fill the Boot’ event raises $40G for Sandy victims

West Babylon residents and volunteer firefighters Brian Hammel,

West Babylon residents and volunteer firefighters Brian Hammel, 19, (left) and Anthony Brooks, 20, (right) collect money for Town of Babylon superstorm Sandy victims during the town fire department's "Fill the Boot" fundraiser. (Jan. 5, 2013) Credit: Fran Berkman

Babylon firefighters might have just given new meaning to the phrase “bootstrapping it.”

Members of every volunteer fire department within the Town of Babylon took part in a fundraiser on Saturday that generated more than $40,000 for victims of superstorm Sandy within the town. The event was dubbed “Fill the Boot” because the volunteers stood at various intersections throughout the town, encouraging passersby to drop money into large rubber boots.

“The idea of this is to help the storm-ravaged people of the Town of Babylon,” said Jim Harrington, president of the Babylon Fire Chiefs’ Association. “We don’t just stop because there’s no fire or no emergency; we help the community day in and day out.”

Many who helped with the fundraiser were also there during the storm. A team of six volunteer firefighters from West Babylon drove a high water rescue truck through 5-feet of water and helped more than 40 people and four dogs evacuate.

“You couldn’t tell the street from the canal, everything was just one,” said Garry Mowbray Sr., a member of the high water rescue team. “In 38 years in the fire service, I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Tom Kilfeather, another member of the team, called it a “career changing experience.”

“It was something that you couldn’t train for,” he said. “We were sitting there fighting a fire, and a fish swims by us. How many times are you going to see that?”

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Robert Mina, a volunteer fireman of 32 years, was posted outside of North Babylon Station Two, holding a sign encouraging drivers to stop and “Fill the Boot.”

“We’re doing this to help those who are really in need,” Mina said. “We’re members of the community helping the community.”

This is not the Town of Babylon Fire Department’s first Sandy relief effort. During the week before Christmas, the department raised and gave away $25,000 in gift certificates, much in thanks to an anonymous donor who contributed $15,000.

While all the firefighters and trucks in the department were occupied with the fundraising effort, Christine Manzi, second assistant chief of the West Babylon Fire Department, received a call for a fire at the post office on Route 109 at 10:45 a.m.

The entire department responded to what ended up being a minor incident, then quickly returned to collecting money for the Sandy victims.

“Of course we’re going to help out people who need it the most,” Manzi said.

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