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West Webster Fire Department continues to receive donations following Christmas Eve tragedy

Posted at: 02/25/2013 6:09 PM
Updated at: 02/25/2013 6:14 PM
By: Christine VanTimmeren

Are you one of the thousands in in our area who have donated money to the West Webster Fire Department? Since the Christmas Eve tragedy, the department has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Fundraisers continue to be held just about every weekend. So News10NBC wanted to know who's in charge of that money and how is it being split up.

First and foremost, the West Webster Fire Department wants everyone to know that they are not asking the public for all this money, although they very much appreciate it.  Businesses and people from around the world have been donating this money on their own. And while the West Webster Fireman's Association would love to tell us where every single cent is going, at this point, they're still trying to figure that out themselves.

Ken Smith, President of West Webster Volunteer Fireman's Association, said, “It's all written down here, the date the check came in, the amount it was for and who sent it. We've got 51 pages of notes there. I just keep saying it over and over again, we never expected this much support from the community.”

They've never asked for a single cent from the public. They've never claimed to need it more than any other fire department, but money and support for the West Webster volunteer fire department keeps pouring in.

Smith said, “So far, we've taken in a little over $600,000.”

So who's in charge of all that?

Smith said, “Well I guess the bottom line is it falls on me as the president but the committee is doing it all. We've got 5 people.

Ken Smith is the President of the Volunteer Fireman's Association.
He says many of the checks coming in have been designated for specific purposes, most asking for the money to go to the families of Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka.

Smith said, “We've gotten a small amount for the homeowners who lost their homes on Lake Road. We've gotten some for our explorer post, some for the auxiliary. A lot of it in the memo line says it is wherever we want, wherever we see fit.”

And it's that "wherever we see fit" money that the committee is in charge of dividing up.

Smith said, “I can't believe how many keep coming in. We get probably 8-10 checks a day.

Managing the money is not a task Smith and his committee are taking lightly. He says they want to make the right decisions. Even hiring a lawyer to help sort it all out.

Smith said, “The $10 donation means just as much as the $15,000 thousand because it's somebody that cares.”

Smith says the support is helping, helping them try to get back to their new normal. Helping them to eventually give back to the community that's given them so much.

Smith said, “It's helping, knowing that people still care and people are still thinking about us. They haven't forgotten.”

If a check is sent in with specific instructions to go to one of the families, it goes to them, no questions asked. The fireman's association is not saying exactly how much money that is, but that money could be used for things like college funds for Mike Chiapperini's children or continuing care for the two injured firefighters.

Some of the donations are being specified for the memorial. The fire department is working with local landscapers to come up with a plan for a fallen firefighter's memorial. A proposal is still being worked up but we are told it would be something for all fallen heroes.