By George Slaughter
Santa Claus brought lovely weather for the second annual Pancakes with Santa, sponsored by the Katy Professional Firefighters Association Saturday morning at the Katy Fire Department, 1417 Avenue D. But the association brought checks for its first two scholarship recipients.
Proceeds from the breakfast pay for a Katy Independent School District student to attend EMT school, the fire academy, or paramedic school. At Saturday’s breakfast, the first two scholarships, for $2,000 each, were awarded to Jared Pollack and Courtney Hudson-Jackson.
Pollack and Hudson-Jackson are 2018 graduates from Seven Lakes High School. Today they are both enrolled in the paramedic program at Lone Star College.
Katy firefighter and association president Harry Haynes said Pollack and Hudson-Jackson applied to the program when it was being launched last year. The association chose to award the money at Saturday’s event to increase program exposure. Haynes said he was very excited to call Pollack and Hudson-Jackson a couple of weeks ago with the news that they were the first ones chosen.
Haynes said the association’s goal is to try and make the program make it bigger and better every year.
“We hope one day to have 15 kids awarded scholarships,” Haynes said.
Besides pancake and sausage breakfasts, people enjoyed the chance to both visit with Santa Claus and look at the fire trucks, including a new ladder truck.
Haynes said the plan going forward is to establish the first Saturday in December as the standing date for Pancakes with Santa.
Haynes said that organizing and staging the breakfast required help from many people and sponsors, such as HEB, which provided the food. Armadillo Portable Toilets and Veterans Manufacturing are among the corporate sponsors. Firefighter and association vice president Trey Lee said the association continues to take corporate sponsorships throughout the year.
The scholarships become important for several reasons. The demand for qualified EMTs and firefighters has grown as more people settle in Katy and surrounding areas.
Katy is among the few area communities that offer both EMT and firefighting services. Fire Chief Russell Wilson said approximately 86 percent of the service calls the fire department receives is for EMT services. That demand will surely grow as Katy grows, particularly on the western side of the city.
Haynes said the area has several programs for training EMTs and firefighters. However, he said recent changes to the required paramedic curriculum have made it take longer, and more expensive, to complete the program.
Those who complete their training will be entering a strong job market. Katy is competing with other cities, such as Humble, Pearland, and Sugar Land, for qualified EMTs and firefighters.
Pancakes with Santa is one of several community services in which firefighters participate. In June, firefighters played their police counterparts in the first annual softball classic at Katy City Park. Firefighters have also partnered with Katy Elementary School, 5726 George Bush Dr., on the Giving Tree, a holiday sponsorship project that benefits students and siblings in need of gifts, clothing, and toiletry items.