A Little History of the SouthSide F.O.O.L.S.
The SouthSide F.O.O.L.S. (SSF) Chapter was formed 15 September 2002 after a ‘few good men’ gathered (Mike Orrico, Tom Shervino, John Hojek, Lew Lake, Seth Dale, Curtis Birt…) after attending FDIC.
The SSF members are made up from a diverse geographical area of Chicagoland and surrounding counties. As keeping with tradition, many members are from generational firefighting families, yet some are first generation. Members hold rank from firefighter up to Chief/Commissioner, both active and retired from the fire service, and have come from volunteer to full-time. Our members are involved with instructing at the local, state and national levels.
In 2006 our chapter hosted the F.O.O.L.S. Convention. Later that year we re-organized becoming more structured, began sending out bereavement cards for LODD, developing more quality training and partnering with Children’s hospital & Ronald McDonald House. SSF has recognized the importance of ‘paying it forward’ and seeing the ‘big picture’ as it’s just not about ourselves.
Our chapter quarterly visits Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital, distributing various needed items throughout the units and visiting with the children. (What child doesn’t like to see a firefighter and what firefighter doesn’t like to put a smile on the face of a child?) SSF additionally assists at the Ronald McDonald House by cooking meals for the families staying while their children are in treatment.
As with any fraternal organization, members have been instrumental in advancement of their fellow members in their fire service careers. SSF provides funding for Scholarship programs through Illinois Fire Chiefs Educational & Research Foundation. SSF has also been instructing at the annual Shabbona Fire School since 2003. Most recently, the past three years, we have partnered with Fire Up a Cure to assist in awareness and research for pediatric cancer.
Our chapter is a diverse group with strong values, dedication, integrity and live the acronyms of DPT-KTF-DTRT-FTM/PTB-EGH—RFB not only in the fire service but within the community. Many of our members have been mentors and brought people into the chapter. Not only for what the FOOL’s offer, but what they offer the F.O.O.L.S.
No different than any other organization, we have lost brothers too early in life; Brother Joel Mendoza, Tony Volpe, Ronnie Karrels and most recently John Leonard. We have been fortunate to have shared their life and can rest assured they are watching over brother firefighters.
Our chapter (like all chapters) and membership believe in preserving the rich history and traditions of the Fire Service. Our chapter has continued to evolve since our inception in 2002 to meet the changing fire service and needs of our partners. Under the mentorship of Chiefs ‘Mac’ MaCastland and ‘EE’ Eddie Enright who have developed an inspirational leadership program along with Rich Stack and Chris Bednarek who serve on the Executive Board of F.O.O.L.S. International.