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Continuing the Work in TK’s Name

It was a ramp build TK would’ve been proud of. On Thursday, September 8, the Fight for Firefighters Foundation (FFFF) continued the good work that late Firefighter Timmy Klein did with the organization that he helped found, in Timmy and Firefighter Steven Pollard’s name.

Since it started in 2017 by FDNY firefighters from Canarsie’s Bravest Engine 257/  Ladder 170/ Battalion 58 , the FFFF has been building ramps on homes for those in need who find themselves suddenly using a wheelchair. Through donations and the volunteer work of the firefighters in the organization, they’ve been able to build ramps for many families all across New York. Among those volunteers were firefighters Steven Pollard and Rockaway resident Timmy Klein of Ladder 170. Both died on the job, Pollard in 2019 and Klein in April of this year. Now every ramp build is done in their memory, sealed with a plaque bearing their names.

Last Thursday, the FFFF found themselves at the home of Belle Harbor resident Jack Bender. After a broken hip and related injuries left Bender in need of a wheelchair, leaving his home became a difficult task. That’s where the Fight for Firefighters Foundation stepped in. It’s a job Timmy Klein, who was a board member for the organization and never missed a ramp build, would have been proud of. After all, Jack Bender was his former basketball coach for the Summer Classic, and Bender, a veteran, is a hero in his own right, making this job a special one.

Timmy’s father, Pat Klein, installed the dedication plaque.

It was made even more special when the many volunteers on the project realized that among the tools they were using was a DeWalt drill with some special initials on them—TK. “I’m getting choked up because we found Timmy’s drill,” Kevin “Rusty” Roth said. “It has his initials on it. It’s his drill that he built many a ramp with us and he was at every build.”

It was also the drill handed to Pat Klein, Timmy’s father, a retired firefighter who has since joined the FFFF to help continue the work that his late son did. At the end of last Thursday’s ramp build, a job completed within just two hours, Pat Klein was given the honor of screwing in the plaque dedicated to his son and Firefighter Steven Pollard, onto the newest addition to the Bender home.

Pat Klein explained that he had recently found Timmy’s drill while working on the home Timmy Klein had just purchased before he died. “I thought maybe he lost it over the years, and it’s a good drill to have. I was going to purchase another one, and we’re working on Tim’s house now, since my daughter and her husband are going to move in, but it just appeared. I saw the TK on the DeWalt. One of his best friends was using it to build his house. So now it continues. Timmy’s still giving back,” Klein said.

For Klein, joining in on the ramp builds is a way for him to give back, and a therapeutic experience, in the wake of his son’s passing. “I’m not as good of a carpenter as Timmy. I’m just trying to show my support for what they do, which I think is fantastic. I don’t do too much but when I’m here, it gives me a little diversion from the every day of realizing that he’s gone. It helps me get through the day,” Klein said. “Timmy was very dedicated to this. He loved doing it, and they really do a great job. The guys are so involved and dedicated. The craftsmanship of these builds is amazing.”

As he took his first ride down the newly built ramp, Bender agreed. “This is marvelous,” Bender exclaimed as he got to the bottom. “Look at how many guys showed up. They did it in two hours!” he said, clearly impressed with the work the men had done in a short time to help make his life a bit easier.

After that job was complete and the plaque was put in place, the FFFF volunteers continued on to a job Timmy himself had worked on in October 2019. When the late Frank Mangano, a correction officer, was diagnosed with ALS, the family thought they would have to sell their Rockaway Park home. “This is the house of steps,” Frank’s wife, Patti Mangano said. But Timmy, who used to live around the block from the Manganos as a kid, insisted that they build a ramp for the family. “Timothy was the point guy for me. He kept saying, ‘Patti, we have a ramp.’ I said ‘Where are you going to put a ramp here?’ He said, ‘We’re going to make it work, don’t worry,’ and they did,” Mangano said. In October 2019, the FFFF built the ramp, giving Frank easier access to and from his home until he passed away in March 2020.

Though it was an old job and Frank has since passed, when Patti found out about the dedication plaques, she insisted the ramp have Timmy’s name on it. “I think of him every time I see it, and now I have his name on it. It’s beautiful,” she said after Pat Klein screwed the plaque to the old ramp on Thursday, marking the completion of the job.  “This ramp wasn’t complete. We consider every ramp complete when we honor Steve Pollard and Timmy Klein,” Roth said.

Reflecting on everything her husband went through, and on the loss of Timmy, to see his name on the now-completed ramp, was bittersweet. “As much as everything was horrible, you think of everything that was beautiful that came along with it,” Mangano said.

Bringing a little light to a tough situation is what FFFF President John Vaeth says it’s all about. “It’s our way of giving back. We’re able to help first responders and vets gain access to their house. I think everybody here feels blessed that we’re firefighters and blessed that we get to know some of the best people around, and we all like to give a little back,” Vaeth said. “And this is my way of mourning. We all miss Timmy and Steve. Every time we do this, it reminds me of them, and it’s just a nice thing.”

And the work continues. Their next ramp build is expected to take place this weekend. To help support the work of the Fight for Firefighters Foundation, check out: FightForFirefightersFoundation.com

By Katie McFadden


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