BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Firefighters are known as New York’s Bravest. They’re in the life-saving business and go toward the trouble when there is an emergency.
A not-for-profit organization has been the place where firefighters can turn when they are facing stresses or problems.
Friends of Firefighters has worked for more than two decades to provide a comfortable space for firefighters and offer mental health and counseling services. In 2009, they moved into a decommissioned firehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Arturo Grant retired after 30 years with FDNY. He still heads to the firehouse, including speaking to fellow firefighters at the center.
“For me this is a safe haven and it’s like being home. Firefighters need to feel comfortable,” he said.
Executive Director Nancy Carbon helped start Friends of Firefighters right after 9/11 when she volunteered with some neighborhood firefighters. Having a place that looks and feels like a firehouse is important.
“If the firefighters came to build it on their own time and make it look like a firehouse, we are on the right track,” she said.
Carbone says since 2018 they have seen more than a 300% increase in requests for services. They started with three counselors and currently have 14 practitioners working with firefighters, offering individual and family sessions.
Community dinners and events with speakers are scheduled during the month.
Former FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro is on the board of directors. “Firefighters save lives every day and Friends of Firefighters does the same thing. These are friends. People can be anonymous, no one will know or send a bill,” he said.
Firefighters say the services are unique because it is off-site and not connected to work. The department, the union and professional organizations offer services, as well. They do outreach to make sure firefighters know about the services if they need them, or if they know someone else who does.
Friends of Firefighters runs on donations and community supporters. They’re raising money to expand services.