LAKE WALES (FBW)—Several Lake Wales residents can sleep easier since receiving a visit from First Baptist volunteers who knocked on doors March 9 to give away batteries for smoke detectors.
The semi-annual time change dates are promoted nationally as times to change the batteries in smoke detectors, which Lake Wales Fire Chief Jerry Brown called “the absolute best way to survive a residential fire.”
The March time change was the fourth time First Baptist Church gave away batteries on Saturdays before clocks are set back or forward. This time First Baptist volunteers were joined by volunteers from several other local churches including Crossridge Baptist Church, Wayside Baptist Church, and churches of other denominations. The “added manpower” helped cover more neighborhoods, according to First Baptist Pastor Scott Markley.
Neighborhood visitors offered to pray with residents about their concerns, and they also texted the addresses of 57 homes without smoke detectors to the fire department. Firefighters returned to the houses—often within hours—to install working detectors.
Markley told Florida Baptist Witness he discovered the idea of the battery give-away while researching “ways to love your community.” He quoted author Eric Swanson who wrote, a church should “be for its community instead of just in the community.”
“This is a tangible way to express God’s love—a different way to do door-to-door visitation. We ask if they have a prayer need, and it’s very rare that they say ‘no,’” he said.
The pastor said he knew he would find support for the effort in his church because Chairman of the Deacons Jerry Brown is Lake Wales’ fire chief, and Polk County Fire Chief David Cash is also a church member.
The number of volunteers has grown with every give-away, with about 10 percent of the 400-member congregation visiting March 9.
During the give-away, visitors discovered an elderly resident whose son had taken the batteries out of the smoke detector to replace them, but had never put in new batteries.
“She told us she went to bed every night fearing a fire and knowing she was unprotected,” Markley said.
She, like other residents in older neighborhoods, welcomed the offer more than more those in affluent areas, he said.
Volunteer Stan Dempsey marked the 20th anniversary of his son’s death in a house fire by encouraging Lake Wales residents to make sure they would be awakened if a fire started, Markley said.
Fire Chief Jerry Brown said he hoped the church volunteers were careful to check their own smoke detectors.
“It is amazing that after 30 years of the fire department giving away smoke detectors, we still have lots of residents without one that works,” he said. “We have a much better response when people go door to door than having newspaper announcements or signs at fire stations.”
Brown said the battery and smoke detector give-away is only one side of the day’s effort for “a faith- driven fire chief.”
“This gives churches opportunities to tell people God loves them, and they can find those with other needs besides a smoke detector,” he said.
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