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EMS community donates clothing, boots and money to paramedic students in need

EMS professionals, educators rally to support and “take care of the next generation of providers”


Brand new, albeit dusty, Bates boots and Blauer coat I am donating to a Uniform Closet for paramedic students in need.

Photo/Courtesy of Greg Friese

David Fifer took to Facebook to ask his network of EMS educators, leaders and field professionals for a pair of boots for a paramedic student.

“One of my student’s shoes are falling apart, and he’s too poor to afford new ones. Before I just go buy some, does anybody happen to have an unused pair of black shoes or boots?,” Fifer wrote on Facebook.

Fifer is a lecturer and laboratory manager for the Eastern Kentucky paramedic education program. Within minutes of Fifer’s post, dozens of his friends had offered to donate new boots and pants, gently used uniform components and funds for Fifer to purchase what he needed for this student.

Paramedic Tim Morrison was the first to reply.

“I don’t have that size, but I have a pair of 9s if this ever comes up again,” Morrison wrote.

Morrison’s comment and the offers of many other EMS professionals gave Fifer the idea for a uniform closet for students in need.

Paramedic Cory Buckner and many more offered to donate funds, prompting Fifer to collect donations.

“Tell us how to get money to you or what specifically they need,” Buckner wrote. “This is how we take care of the next generation of providers.”

“Come by station-2. Me and my men want to pitch in and help buy him a new pair,” Captain Brent Causey wrote.

How to support EMT and paramedic students in need

Several of the commenters on Fifer’s post mentioned similar experiences in their EMT and paramedic education programs. Here are ideas on how to support paramedic students in need:

1. Establish a uniform closet at your program

Set aside new and gently used items in your classroom or simulation laboratory. Make sure the availability of these items is written into the course syllabus and mentioned before clinical experiences begin.

College-based EMT and paramedic programs may already have a business attire or work uniform loan program.

“MSU (Morehead State University) has a closet for college students where people can bring suits and other professional clothing for students,” April Reefer wrote. “Great way to get them their first suit for an interview.”

2. Apply for a grant to purchase student supplies essential to success

The civic groups and community foundations in your response area are potential funding sources for a grant to purchase supplies essential to success. Teaching and preparing aspiring public safety professionals to serve their communities for decades to come is a compelling story to tell.

3. Ask uniform and footwear vendors for factory seconds and display products

When a uniform vendor visits your station or school, or you visit with a vendor at a tradeshow, ask the vendor if they have display products or factory seconds to donate to your school’s uniform closet. Spread the word and you’ll likely be pleased with the result.

“We often run into a similar situation for clients,” Kerri Mercury wrote. “You find that if you ask, people are often eager to help.”

4. Refer students to student support services

Vocational and technical training programs are heavily focused on students’ graduating. Your school likely has a variety of services to catch-up students on reading, writing and math skills; test preparation; obtaining child care during school hours; and interviewing successfully for internships and jobs after graduation.

Invite a student support representative to your next faculty meeting to learn about the services your school provides. Ask that same representative to speak to your students early in the program.

Take care of the next generation

For those of us who are employed, we all arrive at work with some level of stress and worry. But at least we have a job, a paycheck and community of coworkers. When students arrive at your station for their field internship, pause for a moment to consider that the student may be wearing donated boots and struggling to eat while they are in school. Welcome the student into your ambulance and support their success.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions with this form.

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