HUNTINGTON — Huntington firefighters are on their way to a better night’s sleep after AT&T’s Believe Appalachia initiative donated mattresses to each station.
The campaign, which is geared toward helping battle the opioid epidemic in the region with a focus on first responders, announced a $19,000 donation Thursday — $11,000 will go toward 32 new mattresses and $8,000 will contribute to continued efforts to demolish dilapidated homes in Huntington.
Josh Blake, engineer at the Huntington Fire Department, brought the need for mattresses to the attention of AT&T employees when the campaign was announced in October.
“Sleeping here is a life-or-death situation,” Blake said. “If I’m not rested and I wake up, I pull out of here and turn left when I’m supposed to turn right, those two minutes, even 30 seconds, it takes to get back around the right way could mean life or death for somebody in that house. We take it serious, everything we do, so every little bit helps.”
Andy Feeney, president of AT&T West Virginia, said he noticed the poor condition of the mattresses while painting Huntington Fire Station No. 10 after the initiative’s launch.
A donation of $2,000 was made toward up to six new mattresses in November, but thanks to the recent contributions, every Huntington firefighter will now have the chance to sleep just a little better at night.
“This all started talking to the chief about issues for firefighters and first responders here in Huntington with the opioid epidemic overwhelming them — then it came down to sleep,” Feeney said. “It’s really exciting to provide something like this that is such a basic need at a time like this.”
Fire Chief Jan Rader said the donation is part of the city’s emphasis on wellness and thanked AT&T and its employees for their continued support.
“These are memory-foam mattresses that will go along with our wellness initiative,” Rader said. “That, on top of tearing down houses that are a danger not only to the community but to the firefighters here, it’s just amazing seeing the commitment they have to providing support to public safety.”
Mayor Steve Williams said Thursday’s contribution brings the total dollar amount of donations from the partnership to about $85,000.
The two biggest contributions thus far were $24,000 toward tearing down abandoned houses and a $20,000 donation for the city’s Compass Wellness Center.
“This brings a total of $85,000 that AT&T has committed to help Huntington through our various initiatives, and certainly they’ve helped us with the mattresses and with the demolition of properties,” Williams said. “We have a strong partnership with AT&T, and we appreciate it. AT&T is a huge, international company, but it’s local because of the employees we have working here.”
Continuing their efforts in the area, Feeney said AT&T will soon make a $10,000 donation to Facing Hunger Foodbank.