Retired Toledo Firefighter Steve Jones works the bar during a one-day fund-raiser Monday to benefit the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation at PizzaPapalis in Toledo.
Brian Phillips looked like a regular pizza slinger Monday night, swirling sauce over raw, round dough, piling high the pepperoni and cheese.
Not bad for a guy whose real job is fighting fires and answering medical runs around Toledo.
Captain Phillips was one of more than a dozen Toledo firefighters at PizzaPapalis who volunteered to help make pizzas, pour beers, serve diners, and mingle with the crowd.
The downtown pizzeria opened Monday — a day when it’s usually closed — for a four-hour, one-night Fill the Boot fund-raiser to benefit the family of James “Jamie” Dickman, one of two Toledo firefighters who died in the line of duty Jan. 26.
Pvt. Dickman, 31, and Pvt. Stephen Machcinski, 42, were fighting a blaze at 528 Magnolia St., a two-story apartment complex in North Toledo, when they were trapped inside the building until their fellow firefighters carried them out.
The two, with 6 months and 15 years of service for Toledo respectively, were pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.
Dan McCarty, who recently moved to downtown Toledo from Michigan and said he “could probably hit Station 5 with a snowball” from his apartment in the Barley Lofts, said his 3-year-old grandson loves firefighters.
Mr. McCarty said he wanted to give back, which is how he decided on his Monday-night carryout pizza dinner plans.
For the firefighters who volunteered, ordered pizza for their stations, or brought in their children for dinner, it was all about family.
“We always want to do more,” said fire Capt. Tom Phillips, one of the volunteers. “What we do will never replace the loss, but it will help Jamie’s family.”
Captain Phillips said helping at the fund-raiser is “kind of therapeutic.”
It allows the tight-knit firefighting brotherhood to be together off the job, with less stress and a different distraction, and pushes them further into the healing process.
Captain Phillips, who has been on the department for almost 18 years, said he was at a fire recently and sent a rookie into a burning building. He’s done it hundreds of times in the course of his career, he said, but when he watched the young firefighter walk through the front door, his heart sank.
Toledo Firefighters Sharyl Close, left, and Debbie Phillips have a drink and talk prior to one-day fundraiser.
“There’s been some healing,” the captain said, “but there's a lot more.”
All of the funds raised Monday night will go to the Dickman Family Fund; anyone who wishes to donate can do so at any PNC Bank.
The PizzaPapalis staff volunteered their time to the event to maximize the donation, said Tom Stegeman, one of the restaurant’s owners.
The flowers — tulips — that were given to every woman who arrived to dine at the restaurant, were donated by Dan and Mary Ann Vittore of Britton, Mich.
Hickory Farms also donated “gift packets” to the employees, Mr. Stegeman said.