The Bellwood Fire Department is a career organization that provides emergency services to the village 24 hours a day 365 days a year. These services include fire suppression, emergency medical care and transport, technical rescue and hazard mitigation. The Fire Department consists of one chief, three captains, three lieutenants, 18 firefighters, six paramedics, and one administrative staff member. The department operates out of one centrally located station at 3200 Washington Blvd. From this station the department responded to over 3,800 emergencies in 2016.
In addition to emergency response, the department also has a robust fire prevention and education program. Through this program, the Fire Department carries out several hundred fire code inspections annually, speaks to students at each school regarding fire safety, conducts fire drills, trains residents in CPR, and installs and inspects child safety seats in cars.
Bellwood Fire Department Mentoring Program
The Bellwood Fire Department’s mentoring program began approximately 13 years ago when a grandmother asked Fire Chief Andre Harvey for help with her grandson who was a student a Proviso West High School. After spending time with the student, Chief Harvey learned that he was a very good basketball player but that he didn’t like school and had a problem with taking orders and following basic rules and requirements. The chief found the young man to be rebellious and hard on the outside, but fun-loving, tender and caring on the inside. He just wanted attention like any other 16 year old. Chief Harvey then decided to work with him and teach him and support him as he would do for his own kids.
After spending time with the young man at his basketball games and in school meetings with his teachers and counselors, other students started gravitating to the chief. Soon thereafter, the chief was mentoring at least 20 boys and girls from the Bellwood community. That reality prompted Chief Harvey to realize that working for the Fire Department presented a great opportunity to help the kids in the community, and demonstrate that department and village cared about them.
After working with the youth for about six months, the chief realized how much time and money was needed. He went to the then Trustee Frank Pasquale, the village’s former mayor and entire board of trustees where he sought – and quickly received – their support. The village also granted the chief time during his schedule to help the youth.
A year later, the cost of helping so many students was taking its toll on the program so the chief asked for additional funding, which he received. He also visited Bellwood businesses and asked for donations, which came in from those that could help. They continued to provide funding every year. The growing program needed more space, so the chief went to the Boys & Girls Club and the Memorial Park District to have them partner with the Fire Department.
After two years, Chief Harvey met Anita Clinton, a Proviso West graduate who played basketball and who wanted to start girls’ basketball team. The chief and Clinton partnered on a new program to support the team known as the Lil’ Lady Dribblers. Later the name was changed and more voluntaries joined in, including Leon Geralds, DeAngelo Sawyer, Jamar Geralds, Aubrey Robinson, Cecil Anderson, Eriesa Mallett and Sylvia Young. A mentoring program was added and featured guest speakers, life skills instruction and tutoring. Participating students had to: maintain a C average; turn in their report card after each quarter; follow all rules at home and in school; and finish school work before playing basketball. Over the years, the basketball component has grown from 20 students to nearly 65 kids in summer 2008.
Approximately five years ago, the chief’s friend and Maywood firefighter, Lt. Leighton Scott sought information to start a program in their suburb. The two agreed to partner and expand the Bellwood program to include kids from Maywood, and all over Proviso Township.
The mentoring program’s community service component allows students from different high schools perform community service for their school at the fire department. In addition, youth who get in trouble with the courts can perform required community service by helping the firefighters wash and wax fire trucks and clean the fire station. They also research and write essays about what they’ve done and come up with solutions to handle situations different in the future.
Within the past five years, the program also has added a counseling component in which Chief Harvey and other coaches counsel the students about their daily choices, including the pressure to join or get out of a gang. Mentors often are challenged in intervening with parents and their kids and getting them to listen, understand and respect each other. Finally, mentors provide direction and insight to youth interested in becoming a firefighter by offering insight on testing, how to study and interview, and trips to the fire station.
Today, more than 500 students in 5-12 grades have participated in the program in some shape or form. They have been mentored by a who’s who of volunteers, who were all in the program as teens, including NBA player Corey Maggette, who graduated from Fenwick High School and now plays for the Golden State Warriors; Proviso East graduate Steven Hunter, who plays for the Denver Nuggets; and Penn State and St. Joseph High School graduate Brandon Watkins who plays basketball overseas; and Charlene Smith and Khara Smith, DePaul University and Proviso West graduates and former WNBA players.
A number of students who benefitted from the mentoring program and now attending college on athletic and academic scholarships, including D’Frantz Smart (Rice University); Janisha Geralds (St. Louis University); Maime and Robin Giden and Jazzmyn Harvey (Western Michigan University); Kendra Johnson (Michigan State University); Jalisa Diggs (University of Missouri); Janae Sims (Grand Valley State); Jalisa Holt (Howard University); and Lauren Strothers (Concordia College).
Contact the Fire DepartmentContact us with your comments/questions using the form.
Or reach out to us directly by phone:
Douglas L. Dombek, Acting Fire Chief
- 900AM - 500PM
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