Dianne Godi

Dianne Godi in summer 2016, left, stocks up a customer with freshly grilled hamburgers, hotdogs and chips at the concession stand for the toy drive benefit. There were many items for sale including homemade baked goods.

Dent County Fire Protection District board member Mike Godi brought concerns to the board Nov. 2 during its regular meeting regarding the fire department and its lack of involvement in the toy drive the past couple years.

For the first time in over a decade, the toy drive was not housed at the firehouse in 2020. According to Godi and his wife Dianne, the relocation caused difficulties, though the toy drive still managed to help kids in need be able to get toys last Christmas.

“We’re not here for personal gratification,” said Godi after introducing to the board his wife and Samantha and Travis Strange, who are all involved in the toy drive.

“What we’re here for is we’ve got to know where this is going. The reality is you can’t move toys from here to there,” said Mike Godi. An area must be devoted to store the toys and to stage them, so they can be sorted by age, etc.

“We’re here for the kids,” said Godi, which was a sentiment that the board affirmed.

“We’re going to make this happen for the sake of the kids, no matter what. That’s the main thing. There’s a reality here that if you’ve got concrete in the truck, you’ve got to do something with it.”

Godi’s concerns were partially in response to an Aug. 6 email that Chief Brad Nash sent to the Dent County Fire Protection District Board.

In Nash’s email to the board, provided to The Salem News, he indicated clearly that he has no personal desire to be involved in the toy drive.

“At this time I will in no way shape or form have anything to do with the toy drive. I will not support it in any way,” he wrote at one point in his Aug. 6 email to the board. Nash also asked to be removed from the toy drive checking account. According to Nash, he requested his name be removed from the checking account for quite some time. Nash reiterated that during the Nov. 2 meeting.

Dianne Godi confirmed with Nash that he would be taken off the checking account.

Nash’s Aug. 6 email referenced an administrator of a Facebook group that reached out to him when he was residing in the basement of the firehouse. According to Nash’s email, this person took issue with the fact the fire chief, and at that time mayor of Salem (who resigned Aug. 20 for personal issues), was residing in the fire station.

Nash wrote the board in the email that the “same person that sent this information is a big part of the toy drive, and I feel this is being done in retaliation of the recent toy drive issues.”

“I have worked really hard over many years to build a positive reputation for our department and actions such as this does not bring a positive light to the department. In fact it does just the opposite,” the email said.

During the course of the board discussion Nov. 2 a board member said that the toy drive has never been a part of the fire department.

“The toy drive does not belong to us,” said DCFPD board member Liz Gruendel. The only reason the toy drive has ever bore the name Firehouse Toy Drive was because that was where it was hosted, she said.

Gruendel and other members of the board, chairman Craig Smith, secretary Dave Wells and Dave Greenshields, together explained that the toy drive is in fact not an official entity at all, a fact which the Godis and the Stranges were surprised to hear. They were under the impression that it was the fire department who had been running the toy drive since it was inherited from the Lion’s Club. The club ran it for more than 20 years. Since its inception over 30 years ago with the original support of Bill Bond, the toy drive has grown to help provide hundreds of children each year with toys at Christmas.

According to Wells, the only reason the fire department and the fire board got involved with the drive in the first place was, “it was dropped on us,” he said.

“It sounds like, mainly it’s a problem — not miscommunication — but of communication between everybody,” said Smith.

“It’s been off the cuff since the beginning, and we have tried to establish some type of stableness to it,” said Godi of the toy drive.

“I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” said Smith. “But it sounds like maybe you need to create some sort of board.”

Mike and Dianne Godi each iterated to the board that they didn’t know the scope of what they could do because previously they had been under the impression that the toy drive belonged to the fire department.

“I have found out what I needed, and there has been very poor communication,” said Dianne Godi.

“Probably on all parties,” said Smith.

“It’s honestly water under the bridge,” said Mike Godi. “Anything we say at this point is just going to be reiterating the same thing. We’ll move on and keep the emphasis on the kids.

Shortly after, the board adjourned.

To learn more, find Dent County Firehouse Toy Drive on Facebook—though the title will be changing soon.