By Daniel Silliman
The Clayton County Fire Department gave away $11,500, raised at the National Firefighter Combat Challenge, to local, state and national charities, Monday morning.
Posing with oversized publicity checks and passing out normal-sized, real checks, Fire Chief Alex Cohilas stood with 25 new recruits and emphasized the department's commitment to the community.
"Our firefighters are trained to put out fires," Cohilas said, "but they're also trained, from the moment they come in the door, to give to the community."
The department gave:
· March of Dimes, a national organization dedicated to preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality, $500.
· Arts Clayton, a gallery and organization which exhibits and supports local arts, $1,000.
· Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, Georgia's premier children's hospital, $1,500.
· The Clayton County Department of Family and Child Services' food bank, which helps feed families while they are waiting for government assistance, $3,000.
· Rainbow House, a Clayton County shelter for abused and neglected children, $5,500.
The fire department raised the money at the national Firefighter Combat Challenge, held in Morrow in October, this year, for the third time. The challenge allows firefighters from around the country to compete on a job-relevant obstacle course, and promotes physical fitness in departments.
The department has committed to giving the money raised, at the annual event, to national, state and local charities. Last year, state and national burn treatment foundations were funded with the combat proceeds.
Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton, praised the fire department, after receiving the $1,000 check. "The fire department is just incredible," she said. "Doggone it, we love you to pieces."
The fire department originally brought the firefighter challenge to Clayton County on a three-year contract. The October event was held in Morrow's Home Depot parking lot in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The event was a success and Cohilas said it will be returning to Clayton County in 2008, and for the foreseeable future.
"I've been told that as long as we want to have them, they want to keep coming," Cohilas said.