Firehouse Subs helps secure funding for local fire departments

BRADLEY — Sandwiches purchased at Bradley’s Firehouse Subs, owned by Johnny and Kim Jones of Manteno, are doing more than just filling stomachs.

The purchase of sandwiches and the change donated by many customers from each purchase also goes toward requested equipment for area fire and police departments.

The Bradley store, located at 1609 Illinois Route 50 in the frontage property of the shopping center, which houses Target, just donated more than $85,000 to four area fire departments for sought-after equipment.

The business recently donated funds to the Bradley, Bourbonnais, Manteno and Peotone departments through its Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

The four area departments receiving money are the first in this area to have their requests OK’d by the Firehouse foundation.

The foundation within the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company has been in place since 2005, established by the franchise founders/firefighting brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen, following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To date, more than $51 million has been donated to fire and police needs.

It would be fair to say that Kim may have been more excited about the successful grant applications than the fire departments who will receive the funding.

She noted these were their first successful grant applications since they took over ownership. She and husband Johnny, a lieutenant with the Hazelcrest Fire Department in Cook County, purchased the restaurant in November 2018.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said when she was first notified of the approved grants. “Then we learned we were successful on another.”

Then two more came through.

“This means so much,” she said. “My husband has been working for fire departments I think since he was 19. So many departments just do without updated equipment and they just do without the equipment. But one piece of equipment can help so much within a community.”

The Bradley restaurant serves public safety departments within a 25-mile radius of the restaurant.

The four area grants were among a group of 67 grant applications which shared in $1.2 million of funding.

That is a lot of spare change.

“A little change can have a ripple effect,” Kim said.

A part of a firefighting family, Kim hears firsthand about the need of equipment. She also knows firsthand about the price tag associated with so much of the equipment.

“I know how important it is and I know what a huge difference it can make,” she said.

Manteno Fire Chief Scott O’Brien said the automated stair chairs his department will receive will not only aid patients, but will go a long way toward eliminating back injuries within his department.

“For us, this will be such an enormous help,” he said.

The automated chair will replace manual lifting as crew members transport patients down flights of stairs.

A previous grant request by O’Brien had been rejected. While he was always dejected when he learned of his unsuccessful application, Kim continued to encourage him to try again.

In today’s world of growing governmental demands, but with shrinking resources, O’Brien noted help from the private sector is like a gift under the Christmas tree.

“These are certainly good partners to have in our community,” he said.

In addition to Kim and Johnny at the restaurant, their three children, Brittney, 20, Brandon, 18, and Brooke, 12, also work at the restaurant. The restaurant employs about a dozen workers.

But family time at the restaurant could be drawing to a close. Brittney has applied to attend school to study sleep disorder and Brandon is currently testing to join the U.S. Marines. Brooke has a while to go and will continue operating the store’s cash register.

Brittney said it is her mom who keeps the local public safety agencies engaged in seeking funds.

“Whenever a firefighter or police officer comes in, she asks if they are in need of equipment. When they say they are, she gets the chief’s name and then it begins.”

Kim said have been on in Manteno for 11 years, she and her husband are still learning the towns and all the public safety departments within them. She knows firsthand that there is a need and many grant requests to be filled out.