Gary Sinise Foundation surprises fire department with essential equipment

Capt. Carlo Prelle is with the Mims Volunteer Fire Department.

Usually first responders at the Mims Volunteer Department come to the rescue. But when an encryption mandate, requiring special radios and equipment for emergency operations, was issued by The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission, the Mims Volunteer Fire Department needed help.

“It’s safe to say this mandate was the biggest problem we faced,” Chief Ryan Hunt said. “Life saving equipment comes with a hefty price tag and we operate on a county budget of less than $1,600 a month.”

With a deadline looming, the department explored different options. Then, one day a call came from the Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors defenders, veterans, first responders and those in need.

“These wonderful people asked to use our station to serve lunch to our department and Cocoa’s Four Communities Volunteer Fire Department,” Hunt said.

Learning of the foundation’s First Responder Outreach Grant Program, the department went ahead and applied for a grant.

Just two weeks later, the Serving Heroes luncheon, courtesy of the Central Florida Gary Sinise Foundation, and partners such as Mission Barbecue, included a surprise.

During the lunch, a foundation member walked in carrying boxes of communications equipment.

Hunt usually can maintain his composure during unexpected situations.

“Seventeen years in the fire service will do that to you,” he said.

But seeing $35,000 worth of the much-needed equipment, rendered him speechless. Not only had the grant been awarded, it had been quickly expedited.

Hunt would later find his voice.

“Gary Sinise and his foundation guaranteed the North Brevard community they would not have any disruption in fire protection services and that the Mims Volunteer Fire Department would continue to provide quality service for many years to come,” Hunt said.

Central Florida Chapter president Karen Conners concurred.

“Providing this equipment is a perfect example of how creating chapters of the Gary Sinise Foundation expands support and awareness specific to the needs of a region and the amazing people who bravely serve and protect it.”

The Mims Volunteer Fire Department is at 2476 Taylor St. in Mims.

Check out garysinisefoundation.org for more on the Gary Sinise Foundation.