By Jason KUROSU
he Fire House at St. Luke’s of the Mountains celebrated Thanksgiving early on Tuesday night, continuing the tradition of offering teenagers in the area a safe place to meet, as well as their tradition of serving nearly 70 kids Thanksgiving dinner each year.
Volunteers delivered the full spectrum of Thanksgiving offerings, from turkey to mashed potatoes to stuffing and vegetables. Julie Dowse has been in charge of the feast for the past two years and said the volunteer effort for Fire House Thanksgivings has been remarkable.
“The last two years I have posted on Facebook and sent out a group email to our friends asking if anyone would like to help out with a Fire House Thanksgiving dinner,” said Dowse. “The response was overwhelming. Seventeen friends signed up to feed our usual 60-70 Fire House teenagers.”
“It’s been a great kind of outreach ministry,” said Bryan Jones, vicar of St. Luke’s, who’s been involved with the Fire House since its inception in 2010.
The Fire House came together due to the combined efforts of parents and teenagers and has since become involved with numerous local organizations including the Crescenta Valley Town Council and CV Alliance. Currently the Fire House teens are involved in a community anti-litter campaign and the Fire House has also hosted a number of events regarding teens, from college fairs to workshops such as the Teen Girl Empowerment Day held in May.
Mary O’Keefe, Fire House co-founder, said that the Fire House will be holding a series of art classes in the near future.
Former Assemblymember Anthony Portantino was also in attendance to speak with the kids about college and the importance of financial aid. In particular, Portantino urged that the kids sign up for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.
“Unfortunately, we leave over half a billion dollars of unused financial aid on the table every year in the state, primarily because students aren’t looking at the FAFSA,” said Portantino. “It doesn’t hurt to fill out the FAFSA.”
Portantino said that many community college students don’t apply for FAFSA because they are filling out the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver application, which applies only to community college students.
“The irony is that if you fill out the FAFSA, it includes the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver and 604 other state specific programs. The FAFSA encompasses everything. The Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver is very small in comparison.”
Portantino emphasized that the FAFSA applies not only to tuition but all the other “tangential costs of college,” including textbooks, transportation and more, saying that he hoped that if the kids took anything else away from his talk, it’s that they should sign up for the FAFSA.
“The FAFSA is the complete and total gateway to every piece of financial aid to help your parents create a package specific to you.”
Five years after the Fire House’s humble beginnings, from a place to do homework and hang out to having politician keynote speakers, the kids concluded their Thanksgiving with dessert.
“You used to have to explain to people what the Fire House was,” said Bridget Walsh, senior at Crescenta Valley High School. “Now it’s really built up a reputation.”
The Fire House, located at 2563 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta, is open Monday nights at 6 p.m. for college students, and Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. for high school students.
For more information about the Fire House and its activities, call Mary O’Keefe at (818) 535-5962.