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Murray Journal

Westside Murray neighborhood pitches in to help firefighters

Nov 18, 2021 02:35PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Donations to Operation Cover-up await delivery. (Photo courtesy Steve Roberson)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

When the pandemic prevented first responders from conducting their annual coat collection drive, one westside Murray neighborhood stepped up to help them. “Operation Cover-up” has been a 20-year annual tradition for the Murray Fire Department, where firefighters collect and take donations to The Road Home Shelters, the Christmas Box House, Shriners Hospitals, the YWCA and the Rape Recovery Center. But it was put on hold last year while first responders dealt with the COVID crisis.

“With COVID-19 restrictions, our collections were severely limited, as we only had one drop off shed at a Murray Fire location. Collections for this calendar year have just begun. We are hoping that the generous citizens of the Wasatch Front will continue to be supportive of their neighbors who are in less fortunate circumstances by donating as freely as they have in the past,” retired Salt Lake City Fire Battalion Chief Tom Roberson said.

Operation Cover-up was founded in 1997 by Roberson and Salt Lake County firefighter Fitz Petersen. They initiated the program for residents to take clean, new or used cold weather items to their local fire station. The items were then collected and redistributed to agencies that provide services to at-risk individuals and those with specific needs.

Upon Roberson’s retirement, his son Steve, who is a captain for Murray City Fire Department, took over and has expanded the charity drive to Utah, Davis and Weber Counties.

Deanna Palma, Stake Primary president in the Murray Parkway LDS Stake, was looking for ways for youth to serve their community. Primary is the children’s organization within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Palma initially was hoping to send firefighters notes of thanks, but with Roberson as her neighbor, she decided to find out if they needed help with anything specific.

“During that conversation, we learned of the firefighters’ annual service project titled Operation Cover-up.  They have been performing this service for 20-plus years, funneling all donations to community organizations that serve at-risk populations, vulnerable to cold weather conditions. So, the project naturally evolved from simply recognizing the first responders to also inviting donations for the ongoing service project that is sponsored by the first responders,” Palma said. 

The activity became inclusive of not just church members but all neighbors. Children and youth passed out activity fliers, inviting neighbors to leave their winter clothing donations on their front porches. The donations were picked up by the youth on the morning of the activity and delivered to the local stake center. Neighbors were also invited to donate nonperishable goods/treats for first responder care boxes. 

According to Palma, “The excitement was palpable. The generosity in donations is apparent—a genuine demonstration of love. The youth loaded a few large trucks with donations for Operation Cover-up, including new and gently used coats, clothing, boots, and blankets.”

“Along with the cold weather clothing, donated items included numerous toys, games and puzzles. The tremendous outpouring of support in this recent event is evidence that their [the neighborhood’s] loving spirit has not diminished, but may well have grown,” Roberson said.

At the stake center, firefighters parked a firetruck at the parking lot exit so the children could see who they were serving. The first responders knew that the activity was supporting Operation Cover-up; however, the care boxes for the first responders were presented as a surprise gift to them after the activity. In all, the neighborhood donated nine care boxes, one for each platoon in Murray. The care boxes were filled with nonperishable treats, fruits and thank-you letters and pictures from the children.

“I think that the firefighters enjoyed reading them and seeing that what they do is appreciated, and the sacrifices that they and their families make don't go unnoticed,” Roberson said.

If you are interested in donating items for Operation Cover-up, contact Murray Fire Department’s Steve Roberson at 801-264-2780.