Firefighters go out of their way to help those in need — sometimes in the classroom. 

The Peoria Unified School District recently recognized the Peoria Fire Department for its charitable work. Firefighters organized a backpack donation to provide for students in need. However, they ultimately extended the offer to all Peoria students who wanted or needed backpacks and school supplies. 

They also set up a toy drive to help families who lacked presents to put under the Christmas tree. This drive helped well over 500 families and was dubbed a “huge success.” These two endeavors are examples of the many ways the fire department reaches out to the community.

Capt. Stephen Gunn of the Peoria Fire Department and his family recently accepted the PUSD recognition. 

Gunn is no stranger to accolades. He received the National Medal of Honor in 2018 from President Donald Trump for saving a man in a 2016 house fire. He also serves on the board for Peoria Firefighters Charities and plays a large role in creating and overseeing ways to give back.

Rebecca Hill of the Peoria Unified District Governing Board showed her gratitude by saying, “I am so grateful for all the commitment you put toward helping the community.” 

Gunn attributed the success to those who helped out, including his wife, Renae, who is a Peoria teacher, and David Sandoval, the Peoria Unified School District president. 

“This was the first time we did this, so we really didn’t have a whole lot of expectations,” Renae said. “We were surprised with how much success we had, and we just look toward the future and continuing to build it.” 

The Peoria Fire Department routinely spreads cheer to the community. It hosts an annual golf tournament to raise money for charity and has accumulated over $200,000. Another $50,000 went toward a college scholarship fund. Peoria schools have long been a large focus of the Peoria Firefighters Charities for the past couple of decades. Since 2004, it has hosted an annual read-a-thon, during which third graders are challenged to read as many books as they can. They are recognized at a graduation barbecue. So far, 450,000 books have been read.

“You’ve really changed the lives of a ton of kids, and I look forward to next year,” board member Beverly Pingerelli said.