Benevolent Fund Raises Assistance Goal for HCVFA Volunteers in Need
Harford County, Md. – The organizers of the Judy Hinch Benevolent Fund, also known as The Benevolence Fund of Harford County, are working to raise awareness of their mission—and increase their available funds—to assist county volunteer firefighters and EMTs who fall on hard times.
“The fund provides financial assistance to volunteers in need, who give to their community even when they themselves are struggling,” said Jessica Norstrand, chairman of the fund.
The Harford County Volunteer Fire and Emergency Medical Services Association
(HCVFA) created the fund in 2019 in memory of the first female firefighter at the Aberdeen Fire Department, Judy Hinch, who went on to become an EMT, then paramedic, and supervisor who served Harford County for 44 years.
“Miss Judy fell on hard times very suddenly, and she was the type of person who would give her shirt off her back to anybody,” Norstrand said. So when Hinch began struggling with some of her bills, the association held a fundraiser to assist.
Afterward, the association wanted to be able help additional members who fall into times of need. “And that’s where the benevolent fund was born, and it was just right to name it after Miss Judy, to keep her legacy alive,” Norstrand said.
With hundreds of volunteers in the county, the HCVFA has a large membership to look out for. Since it was created, the fund has had over a dozen applications for help, and is completely funded by fundraisers within the fire service and community.
“We started with zero dollars in our account, and we’ve been able to build that up through the fundraisers that we’ve done over the years,” Norstrand said. Their current goal is to get to $100,000 within the next year so they can continue to help even more people.
“Typically our applicants aren’t asking for a large amount of money,” Norstrand noted, with the highest amount they’ve given out being just $7,000. “They’re basically just asking for some help to get them back on their feet. And that’s what we’re here for.” However, she added, if something catastrophic were to occur, they would want to be able help someone with a higher dollar amount.
In order to receive assistance, a member in good standing must fill out an application that is then reviewed by a board. If the request is approved, Norstrand said, the board does not give money to the member, but pays it directly to whatever service that member needs covered, such as utilities, food, or transportation costs. “Whatever the case may be, we make out the check directly to that company,” she said.
The organizers of the fund also work to help members source other appropriate means of help. For example, if someone needs rental assistance, they match them to a program for that in the county. “We look at the whole picture when they’re applying for the funds,” Norstand said, “and make sure that we keep it within our guidelines.”
One of the challenges that the organizers of the fund face is actually encouraging the HCVFA’s fire and EMS volunteers to take advantage of it. “We know we have members who are in need and they just don’t like to ask for that help,” Norstand said. “They’re the ones who always give the help, and are not very good at receiving it.”
One member took more than a year to come forward to request help with medical bills after his wife had some health issues, and they fell behind, Norstrand said. When the board finally got his application, they were able to help him tremendously. “It’s a feeling that’s unexplainable, and it’s very gratifying,” she said.
Now, Norstrand wants to give more people the opportunity to give back to those who give to their community, and share in that feeling.
The fund’s biggest event, their annual crab raffle, occurs every Labor Day. The recent 2023 event was a success, and tickets for 2024 will be on sale through the next year at events and through their Facebook page, “Judy Hinch Benevolence Fund, Inc.” There will also be restaurant fundraisers throughout the year in Harford County, Norstrand added, which typically occur once every other month, and are also announced via Facebook. The fund also hopes to add a new event next year, and is tentatively looking toward holding a 5k walk/run in fall 2024.
“Our community is our biggest supporter,” Norstrand said, “so if we can just get word out there that this fund is established, and what it’s for—and that we need their help to replenish it and build it—it’s just another way that they can give back.”
Individuals interested in gaining more information about the HCVFA and its programs can explore the association’s website at HCVFA.org or visit our Facebook page at @HarfordVols. For those curious about the Judy Hinch Benevolence Fund, you can find more details on Facebook by clicking here.