By GARY POPP
Jeffersonville firefighters will welcome community members to its annual Street Dance Saturday.
The event kicks off 4 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house, and music, food and games will keep the event festive throughout the day.
The street dance will be the first time the public will have the opportunity to see the firefighters’ fully renovated Union Hall located at 11th and Mechanic streets.
To usher in the recently completed renovated facility located in Quartermaster Station, firefighters are inviting the public to tour the two-story building and interact with fire department personnel.
Planned activities include live music, a disc jockey, raffles, corn hole, door prizes and a beer garden.
Admission is $5 per person, and pulled-pork barbecue plates will be on sale for $5.
Eleventh Street will be blocked off between Mechanic Street and Dutch Lane, where a stage will be set up and people will have a chance to mingle outside.
Jeffersonville Firefighter Local 558 Union President Matt McDowell said some of the proceeds will go toward the firefighters’ union, but the majority will be put into its Community Help Fund.
“The Community Help Fund really provides us the opportunity to help the people that we work with directly,” McDowell said. “It’s no myth that when we show up, someone is having a bad day.”
He said the Community Help Fund uses money to help those in need of financial assistance after experiencing a house fire and to fund firefighter/child shopping trips during the holidays.
McDowell said the street dance not only helps fund the union and pad the Community Help Fund, it also helps foster the bond between firefighters and community members.
“It is an important thing for us to be a part of the community,” he said. “The community does pay our salaries. We are afforded the opportunity to work by the community, so any chance that we can give back, any chance that we can be directly involved with the community, any chance that we can sit down with the community members and talk with them on a personal level instead of just being there in bad times, is a good thing.”
McDowell said the Jeffersonville firefighters acquired the Union Hall building, which it leases from the city, about 10 years ago.
He said most of the renovations were done by off-duty firefighters, who leaned on their shared electrical, plumbing and HVAC skills to make the old building a home for their union meetings and other events.
McDowell said firefighters have worked “in little bits and pieces” for nearly 10 years to complete the renovation.
“About five years ago we really started hammering down on it,” he said. “And about two years ago I got involved, and we really made a final push and got most of finished.”
He said the Union Hall will be work in progress, as more money becomes available.
“There are a lot of things we would like to do. It is just expensive,” McDowell said.
Not only did the firefighters put in their time and elbow grease, he said the union paid for the entire project out of pocket and through union dues.
The union also received a line of credit from First Harrison Bank, which McDowell said was a big and much appreciated factor to make the renovation possible.
McDowell said the street dance is a long-held tradition for the firefighters’ union, but last year the event was not organized. Two years ago the event was held at the Quartermaster Station Union Hall, but with so many upgrades since that time, including a second-storey renovation, this year’s event called for an open house and ribbon cutting.