ENGLEWOOD — He spent years collecting money and bikes from local businesses, and each year gave it to children in the community who needed them. He also gathered food from Publix, which he gave to less-fortunate families in Englewood.
Then after 25 years with the Englewood Area Fire Control District, Lt. Don Rossow retired in 2017.
But the Bikes 4 Tikes program he started continues. Now spearheaded by Battalion Chief Don Pasick, the Bikes 4 Tikes gave away dozens of bikes, helmets and food baskets at a party at the Englewood Event Center this year.
“They donated the building for us to interact with the families,” Rossow said between searching names on a clipboard Saturday. “I can’t thank Jennifer Graham, the general manager, enough for her help. We set up sno cones and cotton candy machines. We had a little place for the kids to play basketball and another for them to visit with Santa.”
This year, the firefighters helped more than 60 families, including some for the local Boys & Girls Club.
To show appreciation to Rossow, the firefighters stopped the fun and games and called attention to the longtime coordinator. They gave Rossow an award for his 10 years of service organizing the Bikes 4 Tikes program.
Rossow hugged and thanked the crew that he worked with for many years. Rossow spent hours collecting donations from community-minded businesses like Key Agency, Ron Smith State Farm, Walmart, Publix and other establishments. He worked with counselors from local schools who gave him names of families in need.
“We wanted to show him gratitude for all of his hard work over the years,” Pasick said. “We recognize that each year the need is there and is growing.”
Stephanie Mapes came from her job at Walmart to pick up bikes.
“I’m playing an elf,” she said. “I’m here for my neighbor and for my own kids.”
Pasick said he worked with the Englewood Walmart to order the bikes.
“Then the firefighters spent hours assembling them,” he said. “Doing this for the community is really fun. It brings the kid out in us, too.”
At the event, Lt. Terry Miller and Lt. Adam Baer matched names of families with their new bikes. Pasick’s nephew Johnathan, who was home from the Army, also helped pitch in and load bikes into the vehicles of happy children.
“It’s great to see these kid’s faces,” Johnathan said. “They are happy to have fun here and go home with a bike to ride around their neighborhood.”
In addition to raising money for the recent bike program, Englewood firefighters are selling 2020 Blazing calendars. The calendars are a 13-month showcase of the “brave and hardworking” firefighters. All proceeds go directly to support firefighters and their families during their time of need.
They are available at the Englewood Fire Control District, 516 Paul Morris Drive, off River Road in Enlglewood.