Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The first wildfires broke out in Western North Carolina on Oct. 23. Before firefighters from across the country were deployed to help defend our mountains, local volunteer firefighters responded to the calls and began fighting the blazes. Over the last month, local fire departments have fought alongside firefighters from more than 40 states to fight more than two dozen fires that have ignited over the last month in Western North Carolina, all while responding to the day-to-day calls in their respective fire districts. The Macon County community is coming together to show appreciation to local fire departments and to raise funds to help the departments continue their tireless efforts to keep our community safe.

“We wanted to host the event to help bring some awareness to all that our firefighters do for us,” said Joey Kennedy with Twice Played Sports who is spearheading the event. “In our area, most of the firefighters are volunteers. They give so much and receive so little for it. I really appreciate that. I feel that as a local business owner and member of the community, it is the least I can do to show appreciation.”

Kennedy began working to organize a “Friends of Firefighters” benefit to raise funds for all volunteer departments in Macon County.

“We decided shortly after word got to us about the first first wildfires became public that we needed to do something to help our firefighters, whether it be donating food and drinks or just showing them somehow that we are truly grateful for them,” said Kennedy. “We have been wanting to do something even before these fires, but this just put us in a position to make something happen. Not everyone can be on the front lines fighting fires, but we as a community can come together to give those men and women support.”

Kennedy reached out to Timothy Crabtree, owner of Motor Company Grill to help organize a fund-raising event to be held at Cartoogechaye Elementary School. Motor Company Grill will be cooking the Spaghetti Dinner that will be for sale.

“Our local departments are filled with volunteer fighters who have worked hard the last few months assisting the federal firefighters to protect structures and contain fires before they get out of control,” said Crabtree. “The area volunteer departments do their own fundraising to help cover needed items and equipment so Joey came up with the idea to do something to help. He asked me if I could help and I absolutely got on board.”

More than just an event to raise needed funds for the departments, Kennedy noted that the event will also give the community an opportunity to thank firefighters in person.

“We just really want to show our appreciation for the firefighters,” said Kennedy. “While we will be using the proceeds to give to the local volunteer departments for them to do with as they need, this is also a great for people to be able to gather together to thank some of these brave men and women in person and just help to lift their spirits. This time of year should be full of joy and love, and this is a great way to show it.”

The Friends of Firefighters event is scheduled for Dec. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Cartoogechaye Elementary School. The spaghetti dinner will be sold at $10 per plate, with take out available. Local businesses have donated raffle items and members of the community have donated baked goods for a cake walk. Additional raffle items and baked goods are needed for the event. A special event t-shirt showing appreciation for the local departments will also be available for purchase.

Shirt availability is limited, so to guarantee a shirt, they can prepay/order from Twice Played Sports and picked up at the event. All checks and donations can made to “Friends of Firefighters.”

Members of the local bluegrass band Limited Distance will be on hand to provide entertainment throughout the evening.

“We just want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to our firefighters,” said Kennedy. “They have done so much lately, but they serve our communities every day, not just right now. These fires have just brought things to the front page, but these men and women are there every day of the year. I hope that we will always remember what they do for us.”

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