Located at 7th and St. Julian Streets in L.A.’s Skid Row district and flanked by encampments of homeless people in all directions, LAFD Fire Station 9 is one of the city’s busiest. For its first responders, 80 calls a day is normal. For Firefighter Paramedics Gregory Harvey and Cory McDaniel, responding to countless medical emergencies is all in a day’s work.
Yet outside their “office,” as they call it, Harvey and McDaniel are both family men living oddly parallel lives. They reside approximately 100 yards away from one another; they’re both married with three young daughters — all under the age of 10 — who go to school together, play together, and await their fathers’ return together. And it’s these girls that inspired Harvey and McDaniel to launch a battalion-wide school supply drive.
The idea for the drive was conceived in late June, when the two dads were discussing their gaggle of gals’ return to school in the fall. As they chatted about their own children, they began to wonder: How do the children of the Skid Row area prepare for their academic year? Without parents to afford their basic needs, how do they ready themselves for the year to come?
With these questions in mind, Harvey and McDaniel set out to start a school-supply drive benefiting the Union Rescue Mission — the only mission in Skid Row that houses children and families. They raised the idea throughout the ranks of the LAFD, spreading the fundraiser throughout the battalion.
Collection boxes were placed at each station, with LAFD members contributing the supplies themselves. In its first year, the drive was already a smashing success, raising nearly $1,000 in supplies for the calendar year. Thrilled with their accomplishment, Harvey and McDaniel hope to make the drive an annual event, one that will someday spread department-wide.
According to McDaniel, he and Harvey “wanted to get the kids excited about school because that’s what will get them out of Skid Row.” For these two firefighters living parallel lives in this struggling neighborhood, being of service means more than just the normal responsibilities of an LAFD paramedic: It means watching out for everyone.