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Mentor Fire Department's 'Rescue the Needy' donation drive going strong 28 years later

It all started with 2 firefighters, an idea and a sign
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Posted at 10:35 AM, Dec 16, 2022

MENTOR, Ohio — Firefighters, we know, have a special bond.

And these two, Lt. Michael Smith and Dominic Vivolo, well, you know that best friend you have at work? These two take it to the next level.

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Smith and Vivolo have spent more than 28 years at the Mentor Fire Department together, they've been on the dive team together and have even traveled the country as bagpipers for the department.

And together, back in 1994, they started the department's "Rescue the Needy" donation drive.

The idea sparked when station secretary Annette saw something about Willoughby Fire’s food drive and said… "hey, why aren’t you guys doing something?"

“And that's exactly what motivated us,” Smith said. ”We don’t like to be outdone. Dominic and I have always been competitive.”

Photos from the event’s first years show so much has changed: The cars and firetrucks, the mustaches, the handwritten cardboard signs. But the mission has always stayed the same.

“Same thing, just getting out there and helping those in need,” Vivolo said.

Over the course of 28 years, they’ve raised more than $150,000, plus tons of food items donated directly to the Salvation Army.

“Mike and I are kind of winding down our careers and maybe by the time we retire we’d like to hit that $200,000 mark so that’s what we’re shooting for,” Vivolo said.

“And, a lot of these people that are giving donations are pulling up in cars that are falling apart and they’re giving us $20 or $100,” Smith said. “And we’re like, ‘are you sure you want to give this to us?’ and they’re like, ‘absolutely — you guys are doing something great for the community.’ It’s really heartwarming.”

Because taking care of a village takes the whole village. One idea, two guys and a lasting legacy.

The 2022 Rescue the Needy donation drive is happening on Friday, Dec. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Great Lakes Mall, near the Barnes and Noble entrance.

If you can’t make it out, you can drop off nonperishable food items and checks made out to the Salvation Army to the Mentor Fire Department, 6929 Heisley Road.