The Sable Flames, Inc., the African-American firefighters of the City of Madison Fire Department, have been getting the word out in the community that the application period for their 2020 Jones-Robinson Scholarships will end in a little over three weeks.
“The main focus of the Jones-Robinson Scholarship is to help low-income students seek higher education,” Brandon Jones tells Madison365. Jones will be the Sable Flames Interim Chairman starting April 15. “In the past, it used to be geared towards the fire service but we’ve opened it up and as long as you are pursuing something to make yourself better post-high school and you qualify with the low-income standards, you are eligible.”
The Jones-Robinson Scholarship was created to honor the five children that perished in the Sommerset Circle fire of 1990 in Madison, Wisconsin. The children, who were African-American, came from a low-income single-parent household. Following this tragedy, The Sable Flames, Inc. created a scholarship fund in the children’s honor.
There are two scholarships worth $1,500 apiece. Last year’s Jones-Robinson Scholarship recipients were Aisha Tunkara and Emmanuel Mielke.
“We have been able in the last three or four years to increase the amount of those scholarships – they used to be $500 apiece,” Jones says. “Our goal is to increase the number of scholarships … work towards someday having four $1,500 scholarships.
“With our scholarship selection committee we try to pick students who are showing some ambition,” Jones says. “Post-scholarship, we like to do one or two contacts to follow up and see how that person is doing.”
The Jones-Robinson Scholarship relies upon fundraising that the Sable Flames do all year round at events like the Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit Dance, a giant gala event held in winter to raise money for scholarships, and the Annual “BOWLieve in Education”
“We have numerous events where we fundraise and whenever we can sell our merchandise,” Jones says. “All of that money goes toward the scholarship fund.”
The Sable Flames, like everybody else in the United States, are going through some rough times brought on by the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everybody is healthy. That’s a good starting point. Nobody in the organization has tested positive or who has been quarantined, so that’s great,” Jones says. “We are doing a lot of videoconferencing to keep tabs on each other.”
“It’s been a difficult time because this is the time of year when we get together to honor the dates around Rick’s death and his birthday four days later,” Jones says. “That really brought some somberness to the organization.”
All of the firefighters in the Madison Police Department participated in a virtual toast to Garner on what would have been his 32nd birthday. “Last year on Rick’s birthday we held a gathering … a big birthday party,” Jones remembers. “That was canceled because of the coronavirus, but instead of that we did this virtual cheers thing where we had members of the entire fire department – not just the Sable Flames – send in a picture of them cheers-ing to Rick’s birthday.
“It didn’t have to be an alcoholic beverage but it was just an acknowledgment that ‘Hey. We miss you and we love you.’ Everybody is thinking about Rick on his birthday,” Jones says.
Overall, things have been slowed down a bit for the Sable Flames during the coronavirus pandemic, but they are still working to make a difference in their community.
“We recently donated funds to a local school to make sure that the kids are getting food because we know that with the cancellation of schools, some of those kids are no longer getting that school breakfast and lunch,” Jones says.
The Annual Bowlieve fundraiser is projected to be held in August, but has not been finalized.
“We’ll keep an eye on that,” Jones says. “Day to day operations have slowed down. Just video conferencing with each other to keep tabs on each other’s health and well-being. Making sure we have enough funds.
“’The whole world is canceled,’ is my mantra right now and we’ve kind of fallen in line right now,” he adds.
But not the scholarships.
“No, scholarships are still very much out there and the deadline is coming soon,” Jones smiles. “Just a quick note. Because of these times, everything has to be digital. So our applications are fully online and they can all be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Learn more about the Sable Flames’ 2020 Jones-Robinson Scholarships, by clicking here.