Nearly 2,000 feet of fire hose from senior apartment buildings in Superior is on its way to Central America. The hose was trucked to Stevens Point on May 22 along with donated office and medical supplies. The items will be sent to Wisconsin's sister country, Nicaragua, as part of the Partners of the Americas program.
The hose was housed at St. Mary's Hall and Phoenix Villa, which are run by Catholic Charities Bureau. The cabinets they rested in were outdated; the fittings no longer compatible with current Superior Fire Department equipment.
"What they told us was it's not really employees or residents jobs to fight fires," said Gary Valley, director of housing for Catholic Charities Bureau. "They recommended to remove the hoses, put in the newer fittings that will accomodate their hoses and leave everything else as it was."
That left the nonprofit organization with lengths of hose dating back to 1993 and 1979 in pristine condition.
Instead of sending the fire hose to a landfill, Valley checked with the Partners of the Americas. He found it was fit for use and would be appreciated in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Central America.
"Nicaragua is very poor by almost every standard - education, health, longevity, etc. - so everything they receive is very much welcome," said Valley, who has been a volunteer with Partners of the Americas off and on for the last 40 years.
Dove Home Health Professionals, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, donated supplies like lancets, glucose meters and air hoses. St. Vincent de Paul, a partner agency, offered walkers and wheelchairs.
Valley knew it would all make a difference in Nicaragua.
"I've been there a number of times," he said. "My second trip abroad was in 1977 to Nicaragua, we loaded three school buses with a lot of stuff like this, drove the buses to Nicaragua."
Valley returned to Nicaragua as a graduate student in 1985 and started an award-winning agricultural project in a small community there through Partners of the Americas.
In 2016, the Superior Fire Department sent 98 50-foot hoses as well as metal adapters and nozzles to Nicaragua through the program.The heavy 1960s-era hose, which was new when Partners of the Americas began, still passed quality tests, but was no longer needed to stock their reserve.
In both cases, the donation kept the hose out of the landfill and gave it a new life where it was needed. Volunteers collected it and made sure it got to Latin America. That's what makes the program work, Valley said.
"People are willing to give their time to support other people that they'll never meet and never probably see, but there's a lot of good that can be done just by that kind of interchange," Valley said. "With no strings. I mean, there's no political or religious or any other commitment you have to make."
Inspired by President Kennedy, Partners of the Americas was started in 1964 to connect people across the hemisphere. The program accepts donations of fire equipment, ambulances, sewing machines and material, sporting equipment, woodworking tools, gardening tools, non-expiring medical equipment, school supplies and more.
Contact Valley at 715-398-6095 or firstname.lastname@example.org for local donations or call the state office at 715-346-4702. Visit wisnic.org or partners.net for more information.