Firefighters aim to ‘rehumanize the badge’ with social media posts, community appearances
Few would doubt the value of a firefighter, but in Palm Springs they’re not taking any chances.
The Palm Springs Fire Department and members of the local firefighters union who staff the department are stepping up their social media game and public appearances, hoping to better connect with the community and create a stronger bond.
If that sounds familiar, it is. For years, police departments have made community policing a priority. The proactive approach at forming partnerships between law enforcement officers and residents often pays off, as research shows it’s effective in reducing crime.
But community firefighting? It’s a thing. And its time has come in Palm Springs.
“We’ve never had to justify our existence, but now we do” said Capt. Nathan Gunkel, explaining that calls to defund the police by some often lead to mistrust of anyone who works in public safety. “We’re trying to rehumanize the badge. We want to show that we’re people, too. We have families and loved ones we need to go home to at the end of the day.”
There may be no better example of portraying the human side of those who rush toward danger than what has been happening on the firefighter union’s social media pages, most notably its Instagram account, @palmsprings_firefighters. For the better part of the past two months, engineer Mark Chavez’s stunning imagery and poignant storytelling have captured the attention of the public in ways few other departments have tried.
Chavez said Wednesday it’s all part of an effort to “rebrand” the 63-member firefighter/paramedic force that serves the city.
Another effort took place Wednesday morning, when a handful of firefighter/paramedics visited Koffi in South Palm Springs for the first ever “cup and conversation” event that brought them face-to-face with community members they may not otherwise meet unless it was an emergency. The informal gathering was modeled after “Coffee With a Cop” events held by members of the Palm Springs Police Department.
“The only time they usually see us is on the worst day of their life,” Gunkel said. “So it’s nice to see us when it’s not a life-and-death situation.”
Similar events will be held at coffee shops near each of the five city fire stations, Gunkel said, joking that, “We’re just trying to ride the coattails of the police.”
Judging by the conversation and camaraderie on display Wednesday morning, it won’t just be the public that gets something out of any future events.
“This is really a chance for everyone, even the firefighter/paramedics, to meet up and reconnect in our community,” Gunkel said. “Everyone’s been so shut down the last couple of years.”
More: For a look back at the year that was 2021 for the Palm Springs Fire Department and members of Palm Springs Professional Firefighters Local 3601, check out this YouTube video released earlier in the month.
Join Among Friends, Miss Bea Haven, and all of us at the PS Cultural Center as we celebrate the return of the Holiday Classic “Auntie Mame.” Dress for the occasion, attend the swing-in’ pre-screen cocktail hour-then stay for the interactive film featuring a special performance by local drag sensation “Miss Bea Haven” as Auntie Mame! Buy tickets here.
PRESSING PAUSE ON HIGHER OFFICE: Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton said Wednesday she remains committed to seeking higher office even though a general election in the state Senate district she will run in won’t be held until 2024. In October, Middleton, a Democrat, announced her campaign for the California State Senate, aiming to replace outgoing Republican Melissa Melendez — who cannot run again due to term limits — in a 2022 election. As it stands now, the 28th District Melendez represents includes the entire Coachella Valley and an area from Lake Elsinore to Temecula. However, final maps adopted by a state redistricting commission Monday create a new, geographically larger state Senate district — District 19 — that does not contain Indio and Coachella but does include a large portion of the state’s High Desert. The formation of District 19 also creates a unique situation for voters who cast ballots every four years for state senators. District 28 last held a general election in 2018, so it was due for one again in 2022. But since voters in the majority of the new district last voted in a general election in 2020, a race for state Senate won’t take place until 2024. FOR THE COMPLETE STORY, CLICK HERE.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily Briefing email will not be published Friday (Christmas Eve) and Palm Springs Profiles will not be published on Sundays for the next two weekends as your editor attempts to spend some time with his family (if they will put up with me). All next week, look for a special series that looks back at 2021 and ahead to 2022 in the city, culminating with the naming of our Palm Springs Person of the Year on Friday, Dec. 31.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center offers Zumba gold, canasta, a movie of the week, and more other classes and programs today, starting at 8 AM. The center is located at 480 South Sunrise Way. A complete list of today’s events can be found here.
WOMEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all women — no matter how you identify — to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Thursday at 10:30 AM. You can find information about the event here.
STORY TIME: Librarian Nancy Valdivia reads stories, sings songs and shows early learning concepts (Wednesdays in Spanish and Thursdays in English) at 10:30 AM. You can watch the videos on YouTube here.
NOT TEEN TALK: The Palm Springs Public Library’s teen librarian hosts an Instagram Live session each Thursday at 3:30 PM. To follow along, follow @psplteenzone on Instagram here.
FOOD AVAILABLE: FIND Food Bank distributes food in the city today at a community food bank, 610 S. Belardo Rd., between 5 PM and 7 PM, and at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 West Tram View Rd., from 4 PM until 5:30 PM. A complete calendar of food distribution in the community this month is available here.
FREE MUSEUM ADMISSION: The Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission from 5 PM to 7 PM. Tickets are required and can be obtained here.
VILLAGEFEST: The city’s weekly outdoor street fair takes place at 6 PM on Palm Canyon Drive downtown. The event includes vendor booths on both sides of the street, which is closed to vehicular traffic.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CRAWFORDS: Desert Rose Playhouse in Palm Springs presents “Christmas With the Crawfords” at 7 PM tonight, 8 PM Friday and Saturday, and 2 PM Sunday (no show on Dec. 25). The playhouse is located at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 16. Tickets are $34-$37; high-top tables (for four) or VIP couches (for two or three) are $175. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for entry. For tickets or more information, visit desertroseplayhouse.org.
FREE CHRISTMAS BREAKFAST: On Christmas morning, from 8 AM until 11 AM, Oscar’s is serving a complimentary breakfast to anyone in need. It’s the venue’s sixth straight year offering breakfast to anyone in need of good food, good cheer, or just good company. Oscar’s owner Dan Gore asks that the public help spread the word to members of the unhoused community. “Please let anyone in need know we are open and ready to serve them a warm breakfast,” Gore wrote in a Facebook post. “I appreciate you telling people who are panhandling, we are here for them on Christmas Day.” Oscar’s is located at 125 East Tahquitz Canyon Way.
WHITE CHRISTMAS: The all-time holiday classic, “White Christmas,” is playing at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 East Baristo Road, for a special one-time screening on December 25 at 7 PM. Experience this beloved holiday musical extravaganza on the biggest screen in the Coachella Valley! Proof of vaccination is required.
AUNTIE MAME: Join Among Friends at the Palm Springs Cultural Center for the grand return of an annual Palm Springs holiday tradition — “Auntie Mame!” Dress up like characters from the film or don your most fabulous holiday attire for a roaring 1920’s cocktail party starting at 6 PM and hosted in front of the theater by our very own Mame, Miss Bea Haven. Then see the classic movie you love come alive as a special interactive version featuring audience participation, live action, and surprises. Proof of vaccination is required.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
10K YOUR WAY: Angel View’s biggest fundraiser of the year — the 10K Your Way event — begins December 31. The public is encouraged to register to swim, run, walk, bike, or roll 10 kilometers and collect donations to support their efforts. Funds raised will support the organization, a nonprofit founded in 1954 that is dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities. Last year, despite the pandemic, more participants joined in than ever and fundraising surpassed $80,000. Anyone interested in raising money through swimming is invited to the Palm Springs Swim Center, 405 South Pavilion Way, during its open hours on December 31. To register, send email to [email protected] or call 760-835-0464.
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