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Posted on Wed, Feb. 14, 2007

FSWNJ Members Suzanne Gardner & Sue Schlesinger flew down to Biloxi to help build Habitat for Humanity Homes

Fired up about rebuilding
Women's touch helps Habitat


A group of 22 women firefighters from across the United States arrived in South Mississippi this weekend to help rebuild homes with Habitat for Humanity.

The firefighters have been roofing, installing pavilions and framing storm-damaged homes in St. Martin this week. The group will work with the Biloxi Habitat organization until Feb. 20.

This is the first time a group of professional female firefighters has coordinated a nationwide volunteer rebuilding project in Mississippi.

"I wanted to get this group together because people from all over the United States came to help New York City after Sept. 11," said retired New York City fire captain Brenda Berkman. "When the Coast went through their disaster in the form of Katrina, I wanted to give back."

The firefighter workforce arrived from fire departments in New York, New Jersey, Washington, Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kansas, Maryland and Illinois.

Berkman is coordinating the volunteer project with the Biloxi Habitat for Humanity. She is also the past president of the Women in Fire Service organization, a nationwide community service group of fire service women.

"I was asked by Capt. Berkman what we needed down here and I told her about how many homes still need rebuilding and before I knew it this group has grown into a nationwide effort," said Capt. Michelle Crowley, a 14-year veteran of the Biloxi Fire Department.

The firefighters are working out of and living in the Volunteer Village at Yankie Stadium in Biloxi. The Biloxi Fire Department donated its van to transport the visiting firefighters to their dorms and work sites.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world. The organization and its volunteers have built more than 200,000 houses around the world.

"It is great to see these women who put themselves on the line for their communities every day come together and help another community," said Berkman.

For information about how to volunteer or donate to Habitat, visit habitat.org or for information about the Women in the Fire Service organization visit wfsi.org.





FSWNJ Member Laurie Cooper, a firefighter in Nutley competed in the 8th Annual Firefighter Olympics.  The event was held in Hillsborough on Oct. 21, 2006.  The competition is based on the Firefighter's Challenge featured on ESPN.  The course, which consists of five stations, simulates the physical tasks presented during firefighting efforts.  The tasks included carrying a 40 pound hose pack up five flights of stairs, hoisting a 45 pound hose five stories, using a sledgehammer to move a 165 pound weight a total of five feet, advancing a charged hoseline 75 feet to hit a target, and dragging a 175 pound mannequin 100 feet to safety.  The course was designed to run individually or as a relay team.  Laurie participated with nine other members of her fire company.  Nutley's training efforts resulted in two trophies being brought home.

The annual competition is open to all firefighters who have completed NJ State Firefighter 1 training or equivalent.   


FSWNJ Member Elizabeth Gramer is a retired Registered Nurse and Firefighter/Photographer with the Millburn FD.  She is a featured correspondent for 1st Responder Newspaper for the past four years.  One of her articles she has written was on a house fire in South Orange that was  published in 1st Responder News


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