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Riverdale firefighters booting up for MDA

By Ed Brock

A firefighter's boot is designed to keep water and fire out, but this weekend Riverdale firefighters' boots will be used to keep the money in.

Starting today members of the Riverdale Fire Department will be posted at the Kroger and the Wal-Mart on Ga. Highway 85 with boots in hand as part of the "Fill-the-Boot" campaign to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Fire departments in other counties will be holding similar boot drives leading up to Monday's Jerry Lewis Telethon.

"We try to have our programs with firefighters in August because it's Firefighter Appreciation Month," said MDA spokesman Meryl Mineo.

The Fill-the-Boot campaign is one of three fund-raising boot drives the Riverdale department does, fire Sgt. David Ferguson said. The others are for the Georgia Burn Foundation and, more recently, the Red Cross.

"We've been doing (Fill-the-Boot) for three years now," Ferguson said. "We average $5,000 to $7,000 each time."

Last year's Fill-the-Boot raised $3,600 but the department is hoping to get more this year. Ferguson said that July's campaign for the Red Cross raised $4,600.

The MDA's cooperation with firefighters began in 1954 with the fire departments in Nevada, Mineo said. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 led to an upsurge in donations through the boot campaign.

"From what I've gathered by talking to other firefighters that was the strongest year," Mineo said.

Donations for the MDA have been down in general due to the nation's economic slump, Mineo said, but not enough to put a strain on the organization.

Teams of five firefighters will be at each location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. fighting the heat to gather the cash. Ferguson said both stores have been good about helping them deal with the heat and they will take breaks every hour to cool down.

"As long as we're walking around outside it's OK," Ferguson said.

The change of pace is welcome, Firefighter Michael Brown said.

"It's a chance to go out and see the public," he said.

Firefighter Stephen Reeves said the event is more than just a fundraiser.

"The public seems to really get into it, too," Reeves said.

Representatives from the department are expected to make an appearance in the telethon around 8:30 a.m. on UPN Atlanta.

"They get a little PR," Mineo said.