Loma Linda chooses a chief
By Naima Ford

Hometown firefighter, Jeffrey Bender was officially inagurated the Chief of the Loma Linda Fire Department at the My 13 City Council meeting. The decision to promote Bender to Chief came after his six month tenure as deputy chief, functioning as the department’s head, and in the midst of the department’s reorganizing efforts.

“It’s a dream come true in a sense,” said Bender, who has been in fire service sense he was 18 years old.

Bender was born in Loma Linda and grew up there. Born into a fire service family he says that he grew up watching his father’s public service to the City.

“It’s been a life long passion,” stated Bender.

After working with the Loma Linda Fire Department he went on to work in the Colton Fire Department as a firefighter and a paramedic. In 2005, he made the decision to leave the department where he spent much of his career, to work for the hometown fire department that first inspired him.

“It was not an easy decision to come to Loma Linda,” said Bender.

Since October of 2006 Loma Linda has been operating without an official chief and has been experiencing struggles rebuilding the department. In the past few years the administration of the fire department was dismantled and a number of options were considered by the City including combining with Redlands Fire Department and giving them the administrative duties.

In July of 2007 the decision was made not to join with Redlands and in December of that year the City decided to keep its own fire department and make significant changes to improve it. On December 11 they created the deputy fire chief position and appointed Bender to the position with the hope that he would accept the chief position in six months.

Before deciding to take the position Bender hoped to see progress in the department.

“I had to see that we were serious about building the department that we described,” said Bender.

Changes to be made included establishing a strong leadership structure in the department, creating a competitive salary and benefits package, and bolstering recruitment and retention efforts. According to Bender, in the recent past the

Loma Linda Fire Departement was a place where recruits came to receive training and get experience, but often left for higher paying departments. There was also a lack of direction in the department, which all together created an unsure environment.

Seeing the City Council’s recent commitment to the department Bender decided to accept the top position. He believes that the challenge now is to create a comprehensive and strategic plan to prepare the department for future shifts in personnel and creating stability.

He hopes to restore the department back to what he remembers from when Loma Linda was a smaller community and the department was a pillar of it.

“I’m excited to drive the department back into that model that it held for many years,” said Bender, “Delivering ultra personal service.”
Taking steps to help sick children
By Naima Ford

The Ronald McDonald House held its annual Relay for Kids on Sunday, May 18 at Sylvan Park with near record turnout. Nearly 3,000 people participated in the Relay that was created to support the Loma Linda Ronald McDonald house which provides a home away from home for the families of sick and injured children at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital.

The Relay is the House’s single largest fundraiser of the year. Last year they raised $179,000 and this year the goal is $200,000.

“It was just an incredible event,” said Dee Feldmier, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House, “It gets better and better.”

In addition to the Relay there was food, an Elmo, Dora the Explorer and Spongebob Squarepants show, “Relay Idol” and

“Dance Like a Star” competitions and sports tournaments.

There were 80 teams participating this year with an average of 40 to 50 people on a team. Many of the participants are friends or family of children who have lived at the Ronald McDonald House and want to give back. Even families from out of state supported the fundraiser by creating teams to collect money from their home.

On Sunday there were children, adults and seniors taking to the track and enjoying the festivities on what turned out to be a very hot day.

“The heat didn’t scare anyone away,” said Feldmier. She testified to the commitment of the families who participated in the relay, many of them returning participants.

In addition to families there was also support from corporations. Griseld Hernandez was the leader of the Golden State Foods team. Golden State Foods is a distributor of McDonald’s Restaurant and has been involved with the relay for 10 years. This was their third time having a team.

“It is a really wonderful way to raise money for the House but at the same time spend time with family and friends,” said Hernandez. Their team of co-workers and family had 49 participants.

San Manuel was the main sponsor of the event and donated impressive incentives for the highest fundraisers, including a Wii game system, an iPod with Bose speakers and a 32 inch flat screen television.
In the end it was obvious from teams to the organizers that the reason for the relay is simply the children and those who support them.

“We’re out here for all of these families,” said Feldmier, “ We are like a team for all of them.”

The deadline to donate to the Relay for Kids is June 10. For more information on the Ronald McDonald House visit their website at www.llrmh.org.