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Weekend Boot Drive Tops $13,000 Mark
The final take was down a little from last year ... but with the price of gas shooting up over $4 a gallon for regular in most locations throughout the Central Valley, officials weren't all that surprised.

Escalon Fire Department hosted its 'Fill The Boot' drive this past weekend, April 9 and 10, and took in more than $13,000 over the two-day period.

To be specific, the total take was counted at $13,126.38.

"That's pretty reasonable," coordinator Bob Rocha, a volunteer with the department, said. "We made a little more last year in the same time frame but with the economy and gas the way it is, it went pretty well."

Rocha said the donations also seemed to be fairly evenly split, between Escalon residents and those just passing through the community, with firefighters set up at the intersection of Highway 120-McHenry Avenue and Escalon-Bellota Road to get traffic coming in all directions.

"We had 16 guys between the two days and just a couple of us that were out there both days," added Rocha.

Handling the money counting duties were Rocha's wife Terri and her sister, Kelli DeBoard.

Among those working the intersection, turnout boot in hand, was Battalion Chief Joe Pelot, who was collecting paper money and coins alike on Saturday.

"It gives us a change of scenery, gets us out of the firehouse, and gets us out into the public," Pelot said of enjoying the day, the sunshine and the connection to the community on something other than a fire or emergency medical service call.

Rocha said there were several businesses in town that helped out, either providing food and beverage donations to firefighters while they volunteered their time for the collection, to where they set up their trailer and more.

He also offered thanks to Shorty's Pub and Grill, which had a turnout boot in their eatery to help with the collection.

Rocha said businesses needing kudos for aiding in the effort were McDowell-Davis Towing, Starbuck's, Pizza Plus, D'Boni's and Escalon Public Works crews, who helped with setting up cones and indicating the 'Special Event Ahead' with signage for motorists.

"We put all the signs up that we can and some people still don't know what we're doing," Rocha said, chuckling.

Motorists are approached when they are stopped at the red light, with the firefighters seeking a donation for the Firefighters Burn Institute, to help provide programs and services for burn victims.

Rocha said he also had fewer volunteers to work the shifts this weekend, with the event having to be re-scheduled from an earlier March date because of a hold up with required permits from Caltrans.

Overall, though, fire officials were pleased with the event and Pelot said even if the amount is down a little, donors can still be proud they were able to help.

"Anything we get and send off (to the Firefighters Burn Institute) is more than they had before," Pelot said.