Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Providing Steady Heartbeats
For two guys who weren’t much interested in philanthropy, Robin and Chris Sorensen have come a long way.
“Honestly, when Chris and I started Firehouse Subs in 1994, philanthropy was not a key focus or something we thought much about,” said Robin Sorensen, co-founder with his brother, Chris, of Firehouse Subs. “We were trying to open our first restaurant and sell subs. Though I think we are like anyone else that, if someone asks for help or we see a need, we step into action. It just feels good.”
From 1994 until 2005, the brothers focused their efforts mainly on the Muscular Distrophy Association and other local charities. But, their giving took a major step forward in 2005, when they experienced what Robin Sorensen called a “life-changing experience.”
Robin and Chris decided that they could help out with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina by going to the disaster area to feed the local Jacksonville people who were working on cleaning up the incredible damage and offering aid to the survivors.
They began by feeding the Jacksonville contingent, then went on to feed anyone who was helping out, and finally ended up feeding survivors and practically anyone who needed a meal — and there were many.
They were so moved by the experience, that they came home and started the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
“Since 2005, the foundation has donated more than $23 million in life-saving equipment and needed resources to more than 2,600 fire and police departments, hospitals, schools and other charities such as the American Red Cross,” Sorensen said.
And the arena of help keeps expanding. In 2011, the brothers heard the news that the Camden County (Ga.) Police Department was asking for a grant to purchase AEDs (automated external defibrillators) after the death of a student baseball player who was hit in the chest by an errant pitch.
An on-site AED might have been able to save the teen’s life.
The Sorensens immediately responded, and began a program of providing AEDS to other police and fire departments, schools and hospitals.
Last year, their foundation took yet another step forward. The brothers were looking for a way to mark Firehouse Subs having opened its 1,000th store. They thought an appropriate celebration might be to donate 1,000 AEDS where they were needed throughout the country. They ended up overdoing their goal just a bit by donating 232 AEDS in 2015 and 1,418 so far in 2016 to bring the total number donated by the foundation to 2,308.
Even more recently, the Sorensens teamed up with the mother of Michael Namey to bring AEDs and CPR and AED training to schools, college campuses and organizations throughout Florida. Michael Namey was a Bishop Kenny High School graduate and University of Central Florida student who died of a sudden cardiac arrest he suffered in class at UCF.
The Michael Namey Initiative and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation are working to see that every organization possible receives CPR training, AED training and an AED.
“It’s such a testament to the Namey family that they took a heartbreaking event and turned it into something that will save lives,” said Robin Peters, executive director of the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. “We’re just so glad to have our foundation be a part of it.”
The Sorensen brothers are also glad they can help.
“Chris and I can’t really put into words what we feel about the success of the foundation other than to say that it’s our proudest accomplishment,” Sorensen said.
That accomplishment, their foundation, has grown and continued the work of keeping people safe that both brothers began years ago as firefighters. And they show no signs of stopping.
“I cannot begin to tell you what incredible people Robin and Chris are,” Peters said. “There is never a ‘no,’ but always ‘what can we do?’ ”
By Barbara Gavan