The Tahlequah Fire Department and several volunteers contributed more than $3,500 for their tragedy fund, and many say they are grateful for the community’s support.
TFD organized a lunch of spaghetti with Ragú sauce donated by the national company. Tahlequah firefighters on Red Shift came to society’s attention after crew members posted a video of them cooking while on duty in December 2021, using Ragú sauce.
Ragú’s on-air advertisements show people using her sauce and saying, “Cook like a mother!”
TFD Captain Jody Enlow came up with the idea of having his team recreate a video of firefighter Anthony Margarit cooking like a mother as part of a team building exercise.
The video was posted on Margarit’s personal TikTok account. Enlow’s brother-in-law emailed the video to Ragú, and a company representative reached out to Margarit shortly after via TikTok.
The video featured Captain Enlow, Lt. Sean Valdez and firefighters Robert Duncan, David Craig and Margarit.
The company delivered a large quantity of sauce to Station 1 in January, and the original plan was to host a spaghetti-style dinner at the Cherokee County Community Building.
It was announced at a Tahlequah City Council meeting on October 11 that TFD intended to use the sauce for a spaghetti lunch on Monday, October 17. Donations at Monday’s lunch went to the Local 4099 Tragedy Fund.
At the meeting, Mayor Sue Catron raised concerns that the city owned the rights to Margarit’s TikTok video and that the agreement signed by the firefighters was actually the city’s.
The 792 jars of Ragú sauce were handed over to the firefighters and TFD was given the green light to organize the benefit lunch.
TFD Lt. Tavis Miller, president of Local 4099, said he received more than $3,500 in donations at the luncheon.
“The Tragedy Fund, the union controls the money, but we use it for any firefighter, volunteer or union member. It’s something we set up years ago when we had about three people with cancer – not necessarily firefighters, but them or a family member. We have something in place in case one of us needs to be off work for a while, and it takes care of a bill or two,” Miller said.
Firefighters typically fundraise for chests by selling t-shirts year-round.
Fire Chief Casey Baker said the fundraising lunch showed him how much support TFD has in the community.
“It felt good to see how much support we have,” Baker said.
Enlow said the team building video was a success and showed that TFD is always striving to improve as a team.
“Teamwork is important in fire departments, and Ragú donating the sauce was unexpected, but appreciated,” Enlow said. “We used the sauce to revive our Tragedy Fund fundraiser which was postponed due to COVID. The outpouring of community was heartwarming.”
Miller said they plan to donate the remaining pots of sauce and maybe host another spaghetti lunch in the future.