'Random act' helps firefighters nonprofit succeed
For more than a decade, the Hillsboro Fire Department's Random Acts of Kindness organization has been helping out the needy across the city, but none of that work would be possible with a generous contribution from a single Hillsboro resident, who pays for the majority of the group's operations.
Since 2006, retired electrical engineer Phil Jordan has been donating thousands of dollars a year to the nonprofit, through a trust he established after learning about the group's mission.
Hillsboro Firefighter Random Acts was founded as a way to give back to the community, said firefighter Jeff Gurske.
"Firefighters are on calls every day and find people in unfortunate circumstances," he said. "Often, we want to provide more for families, but can't. This organization does. When we find a family in need we can fill that need within sometimes a few hours."
Those "acts of kindness" run the gamut from purchasing children's car seats, to doing yard work for families with mobility issues, Gurske said.
Last year, firefighters paid for hotel rooms for a Hillsboro family while a loved one was in the hospital in Canada. They helped rebuild the roof of a home damaged in a fire and paid for a child with a terminal illness to visit his favorite sports team, Real Madrid, in Spain.
Each December, the organization collects toys and other items for 700 families in need across the city.
"We fill the gaps," Gurske said. "It others aren't able to do something, we step in. Some months we'll do 10 different things, others we won't do any."
It was during one of the group's holiday shopping trips at a Hillsboro Target in 2005 that Jordan first found out about the organization.
Jordan worked as an electrical engineer for more than 30 years before retiring and was working a part-time job at Target when he noticed a group of firefighters purchasing thousands of dollars' worth of toys.
"I was really impressed," Jordan told the Tribune on Monday. "I found out about the toy drive and I thought that was pretty cool."
Jordan donated to the 2016 toy drive, but said he wanted to do more for the organization.
"I wanted something permanent," he said.
Jordan put together an endowment for the organization in 2006. The $110,000 trust helped the organization get started, said the group's current president, firefighter Dan King. That fund has grown to about $200,000 in the years since.
"This money is instrumental to our success as an organization," Gurske said. "All nonprofits struggle with financial stability, but these endowments made us financially stable to the point where we can expand and grow. It allows us to provide more for the community."
The members of Random Acts are full-time firefighters, King said. They often don't have time to worry about fundraising.
Besides, Gurske added, they're terrible at it.
"Firefighters are good at solving problems. We're not good at self-promoting," he said. "We are good at doing. And that's what this endowment allows us to do."
Jordan said that's exactly what he wanted the endowment to do.
"When I heard the money took a lot of pressure off their fundraising every year, I was glad to hear that," he said. "Fundraising is so difficult. Some years are better than others, and then the next year you'll have nothing."
Gurske said Random Acts would not exist as it does today without those donations.
"Thanks to Phil, we have the ability to tell our firefighters, 'If you see something we can do now, do it.' We don't have to worry about chipping money together amongst ourselves," he said.
Jordan said it's important to give back to the community.
"I feel strongly about volunteerism," he said, "These guys are doing this thing I really, really believe in. They are risking their lives every day, all the while under the radar they are doing all this extra super cool stuff."
Jordan said the endowment was the least he could do.
"I wanted to guarantee them some minimal amount of money every year," he said. "I didn't want them to worry about not getting the toys they wanted."
Jordan has largely stayed out of the limelight, preferring to let the organization use the funds as it sees fit.
"I really stay away from what they do with this money," he said. "It's all theirs. They can invest in it however they want. I just stand back and know they're doing good work."
For Jordan, the work of the firefighters is more important than his financial involvement, he said.
"It's an amazing thing, what they do," Jordan said.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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