When Mark Runge retired, he hung up his gear and walked away from a 38 year career of firefighting, but he knew his service to the community wasn’t over. Runge has always had a calling to help others; it’s what led him to leave a corporate sales career and become a professional firefighter in the 1980’s. Runge rose through the ranks at CCFR to become a Battalion Chief before retiring after 38 years of service to our community.
Throughout nearly four decades of service, Runge responded to thousands of emergencies. Toward the end of his career he noticed something was missing.
In years past, a national disaster relief organization would show up at large-scale emergencies, providing assistance to victims and first responders. When their service to the St. Charles area changed, there was a void that Runge knew he could fill. Within a few months of his retirement, he got to work bringing the CCFR Community Assistance Program to life.
Mark brought together a small team of volunteers who were willing to respond to emergencies within CCFR’s fire district. The volunteers would provide support to the victims, along with water and snacks to first responders on the scene.
The program quickly gained momentum, growing to include a team of 40 well-trained volunteers who are ready to respond at any moment, day or night. Their fully customized retired ambulance carries everything first responders or victims on the scene would need; everything from freshly brewed coffee and portable stools, to baby formula and scrubs in case a victim needs a change of clothes.
Volunteers for the program are there to help everyone on the scene. They provide victims with immediate assistance including clothing, food, shelter and even a night in a hotel if needed. They’re also able to connect victims with important community resources. There are many cases when a family loses everything in a house fire. This team of volunteers provides the necessary support to help them start the recovery process.
The volunteers also assist first responders by providing canteen service, which includes water, sports drinks, coffee, snacks and in some cases, meals. They also provide victims and first responders with relief from the outside elements. During the summer they set up cooling stations with shade, fans and ice-cold towels; in the winter their shelters, portable heaters and other supplies provide a break from the cold.
In 2019 they served more than 500 first responders and helped 14 local families who were victims of house fires. In just the third quarter of 2020, they provided 147 man-hours of volunteer service to our community.