Firefighter solicitors legitimate

WESTFIELD – Some local residents may have been skeptical about telephone calls received recently soliciting donations for city firefighters but may rest assured that legitimate callers have been working to raise funds to support the charitable efforts of the city’s unionized firefighters.
City firefighter Ray Neilsen said that the Westfield’s firefighters, members of Local No. 1111 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, support many local charitable efforts and, in recent years, a major fundraiser to finance those efforts has been a celebrity hockey game pitting a team of firefighters and their friends against a team comprised of former members of the Boston Bruins, the ‘Black and Gold Legends’.
The Westfield squad, Neilsen said, will include local notables including Noble Hospital emergency department doctors Craig Schacher and Chet Blanchette as well as city firefighters.
Professional solicitors have been engaged to solicit donations by telephone in connection with the March 10 game because, Neilsen said, it is “cost effective” to hire the consultants.
The money raised will go to the local’s “Save-a-Life” account “which allows us to make donations to anything and everything,” he said.
However, many residents, wary of calls received, have called the department, office staffers say, to check on the legitimacy of the solicitation calls.
Neilsen said that is sensible to be cautious because, unfortunately, there are bogus fund raisers working the telephone lines trying to take advantage of good intentions.
He said that the legitimate solicitors will always refer to the upcoming hockey event at Amelia Park and any mention of other purposes may be a red flag for residents.
“If they hear anything else, (for example) widows and children’s benefits, anything else, it’s not us” he said.
He said that, not only with the legitimate solicitors mention the game and offer tickets for it, if asked they should know the number of the local, 1111.
Neilsen said that contributors will have the option of two methods to deliver their donations to the union.
The solicitors hired have arranged for runners who will pick up donations from residents who choose to contribute and leave an envelope, containing a check made payable to the Westfield Firefighters Association, affixed to the door of their home and tell the solicitor what day it will be there.
The runners will leave a charitable receipt and tickets for the game.
For those who may prefer to put a check in the mail, envelopes should be addressed to the Westfield Firefighters Association at P.O. Box 581, Westfield, MA 01086.
Neilsen stressed that, by either method, no cash should be contributed. He asked that no mail be sent to the local at the Fire Department headquarters to prevent confusion with department mail.
Although donors will be provided tickets to the game at the Amelia Park arena, Neilsen said “There’s no cost to get in” for the event which will be much more than the game.
“We’re trying to make it as famil-oriented as possible” he said.
The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. but Neilsen said “We have the ice from 3 p.m.” and said that the visiting Bruins alumni will stage skills clinics for young skaters before the puck drops for the game.
Neilsen said the clinics will be led by Bruins veteran Don Marcotte and that children may register for the clinics, at a cost of $30, at Amelia Park before the event.
In addition, Neilsen said, firefighters will be offering ‘Firehouse chili’, the former NHL players will be on hand to visit with the children and a vendor will offer a wide variety of sports memorabilia before the game.
There will also be a teacup auction for prizes donated for the event.

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