Negrete Firefighter Foundation holds inaugural fundraiser
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Negrete Firefighter Foundation, Inc. held its inaugural fundraiser Saturday evening at Camp Caylor to raise money to help send future firefighters through the Fire Academy.
The Negrete Firefighter Foundation, Inc. was started by Maria Negrete and her family after her son, Jose Negrete, died last summer at age 30 after battling stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Jose, called “Joe-Joe” by his family and friends, was a firefighter and paramedic with the Copperas Cove Fire Department for approximately four years before his passing. Being a firefighter was his dream.
The Negrete family hopes to share his story and start a legacy in his honor with the Foundation, which will assist men and women who want to become firefighters.
Maria said that the cost for someone to attend the Fire Academy is between $4,000 and $5,000, not including any books or uniforms/gear. Jose was able to attend because his brother sold a car, and his parents put the remaining amount on credit cards.
Maria hopes that the Negrete Firefighter Foundation, Inc. will bridge the gap between the people wanting to make a difference by becoming a firefighter and whatever financial burdens stand in their way.
“I would be ecstatic if we can get one person in,” Maria said. “If we can get two, that would just kind of blow me away, but if we can get one person in, then I would be really, really happy. I am so grateful for this community and for the love that they’re showing our family, but most importantly the legacy of my son, because that’s what I want to do is have a legacy for him.”
On Sunday, with donations still coming in from individuals and businesses, Maria estimated that they had raised enough to send two people through the Fire Academy.
“In the midst of my grieving and my family’s grieving, we just didn’t want my son’s death to define who he was,” Maria said. “If you knew Jose, he wouldn’t want the spotlight, and so this is not what he would have wanted, but he would be happy of the outcome that we’re seeing today, and not only the outcome of what we’re seeing today but how the community has rallied around us.”
Kempner Volunteer Fire Department brought two trucks for kids and adults alike to climb into and explore at Camp Caylor. There was also a cake walk, a bounce house and live entertainment, including performances by Mariachi de Hoy, Tierra Mestiza Ballet Folklorico and the Central Texas Bellydance Association.
There were also four food vendors: Mama Lama Mobile Kitchen, The Palace Caribbean Kytchen, MASH Natural Juice and Shave & Flave shaved ice.
Approximately 70 businesses, organizations and individuals donated items to the silent auction, according to Maria. Some of the items for auction included two different custom painted hog skulls from Hogs for a Cause, along with tools, grills, an Instant Pot, coolers, a Moosoo robot vacuum, a Google Chromecast, gift certificates to local restaurants, gyms, martial arts lessons, handmade items, a firepit, car care items, jewelry from Bill French Jewelers, a turkey fryer and various gift baskets.
There was also a raffle for a DuroMax 10500-watt gasoline/propane portable generator for $40 a ticket and a raffle for a rifle for $20 a ticket.
Copperas Cove Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Gary Young attended the event, as did Fire Chief Michael Neujahr.
“The effort that has been put into this has been tremendous,” Young said. “I’m very pleased that there’s so many people that are here to support this effort. Mrs. Negrete, Mama Negrete, she was so inspired to do something to celebrate her son’s life and to carry forth the hard work and efforts that a firefighter has and the attributes that they have, and her wanting to be able to bless other people in the future and give them an opportunity to enter into the fire service is huge.”
Young said that this event was a great honor for Jose and his memory.
“I miss him terribly. I really hate that this all happened, but I know that his mom and his whole family are working really hard to continue on with his memory,” Young added.
In the state of Texas, to be hired as a professional firefighter, a person must be trained in a fire academy. Some departments in larger cities like Dallas or Houston or Austin may have their own academies which are highly competitive, but for departments like Copperas Cove, the person must have already gone through firefighter training and EMS basic training to be hired, Young explained.
Copperas Cove Fire Department will, however, put firefighters through paramedic school, after they are hired, he added.
Young also explained that there is a huge demand for firefighters across the state of Texas, likely due to the pandemic, so having more people able to go through the Fire Academy and into the field is extremely important.