Firefighters net double last year's donations to McHenry County Salvation Army campaign

Firefighters in McHenry County this month raised more than double the amount they brought in last year for The Salvation Army of McHenry County's red kettle campaign, officials said Tuesday.

Firefighters from more than half a dozen area fire departments participated in the Firefighter Red Kettle Challenge on Dec. 21, the second consecutive year for such an event, said Jeff Pal, volunteers and community relations manager for the McHenry County organization. Firefighters staked out spots outside Jewel grocery stores in Cary, Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Huntley and McHenry, netting $23,172.85.

Last year was the first year for the firefighter challenge, Pal told the Northwest Herald on Tuesday. Last year, firefighters from Crystal Lake and Algonquin manned red kettles collecting money for the organization, Pal said. But this year, they wanted to host a challenge.

"Part of it is to be competitive," Pal said. "Part of it is hoping you make a difference."

This chapter of The Salvation Army provides food and services to families in need in McHenry County.

Last year's firefighters brought in about $10,000, Pal said.

This year, the winning firefighters from Fox River Grove/Cary/Barrington Countryside fire departments, who staked out the Cary Jewel, collected $12,849.59 for The Salvation Army. Coming in at second place were firefighters from the Crystal Lake Fire Department, who collected $3,282.27 at the Crystal Lake Jewel, according to The Salvation Army. In third place were Algonquin/Lake in the Hills firefighters, who netted $2,608.89 outside Algonquin Jewels.

Huntley firefighters, who rang at the Huntley Jewel, collected $2,444.50 on Dec. 21, coming in at fourth place. In fifth place were McHenry firefighters, who rang outside of the McHenry Jewel, and brought in $1,987.60, according to The Salvation Army.

"Algonquin really wanted to win," Pal said, but firefighters on the Fox River Grove/Cary/Barrington Countryside team expressed the same sentiment.

The money raised will be used throughout the year to help McHenry County residents in need of assistance. Programs and services differ so as to meet the needs of residents in the communities, according to The Salvation Army.

"That's going to individuals who truly need it," Pal said.

A holistic approach to “doing the most good” is used, without discrimination, whether in terms of disaster relief, emergency assistance, substance abuse rehabilitation or educational programs for children, according to the organization.

Pal said Lt. Darrell Cook with the Crystal Lake Fire Department played an integral role in creating this firefighter challenge. “He is the bridge. He brings so much passion and leadership to the firefighter challenge,” he added.

Pal said he hopes the firefighter challenge expands next year. Lake County firefighters are "looking into starting something like this," Pal said.

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