NICHOLAS COUNTY, W. Va. (WOWK) — Most people are gearing up for a few days off to enjoy time with their family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. But for the men and women who keep us safe, the work never stops and the holidays can make that work much more difficult.
Armor Up West Virginia is a non-profit that aims to get first responders, both past and present, the help that they need when struggling with their mental health.
“Crime doesn’t sleep and the fires don’t stop, not even for the holidays,” said Vanessa Stapleton, the President of Armor Up West Virginia.
“We get a lot of crisis calls during the holidays. This can be a really hard time for first responders and their families.”
But sometimes, the help that Armor Up WV provides, requires some aid from others in the community. Stapleton says the nonprofit has already sent a lot of first responders out for treatment.
“That is great,” Stapleton said. “That means that more people are becoming aware that we exist and they are reaching out for help.”
But the nonprofit is run entirely on donations, and towards the end of the year, money is tight. Right now, they are currently working on placing a volunteer firefighter into treatment, but they have run into problems with his insurance.
“For this first responder that we are trying to help, we are looking at a $5,000 deductible,” explained Stapleton. “He is a volunteer firefighter and he doesn’t have the funds for that.”
The group has been asking the community for donations. So far the firefighter’s station has raised a few thousand dollars and Armor Up has raised some money as well. But they are still about $500 short of the funds needed.
The need for help is something volunteer firefighter Derick Jarvis knows firsthand. Last year, he was in that same position, struggling with PTSD before he found help with Armor Up.
“For me, it’s personal,” explained Jarvis. “This person we are raising money for, a year ago, did this exact same thing for me. He reached out and made that call for me.”
He added, “And if he hadn’t done that, I don’t think I’d be here today, honestly. So for me, it’s personal.”