Organization promotes businesses owned by first responders, veterans

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ST. LOUIS - A new non-profit is giving people a way to support men and women who serve and protect. The organization connects the community with first responders who have secondary jobs offering professional services.

The St. Louis HERO Network was founded by Charlie Metzner, a St. Louis firefighter.  It brings together a list of business owned and operated by local first responders and veterans, and their families.

"St. Louis Hero Network gives the veterans and first responders in the St. Louis area the opportunity to connect with their community, and it gives the community an opportunity to support them and their families," said Metzner.

Metzner says many first responders have secondary jobs to help support their families.  Metzner's fellow firefighters, who work about nine days a month, often learn a trade like construction, painting, or carpentry that they can do on their days away from the firehouse.

The St. Louis HERO Network site works like similar websites that allow you to search for professional services, but, Metzner says, with more options like legal services, realtors, DJ services, event planning, and photography.

By selecting a business from the St. Louis HERO Network, Metzner says the community is able to give back to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving the community.

Tom Moore, the owner of Gateway Heating and Cooling, is a firefighter/paramedic with the St. Louis Fire Department and an Iraqi war veteran who spent 17 years in the military.  The second-generation firefighter, who took over his father's HVAC business, says he does not advertise and relies on word of mouth.

"People have been asking me for years before Charlie started this, 'Do you know an electrician? Do you know a plumber? Roofer? Concrete?'  So, I would just give them other firemen's names," said Moore.  "When Charlie approached me, I thought that was a great idea."

The St. Louis HERO Network list also includes the significant others of first responders and veterans.  Colleen Favazza, a real estate broker for nearly 19 years, is the daughter of a retired firefighter and married to a St. Louis County police officer.

"They usually don't get in it for the pay," said Favazza who works for St. Louis Realty, adding her firefighter father also drove a flower delivery truck and her husband worked overtime and second shifts.

Both Favazza and Moore say they donate part of their earnings to organizations like Backstoppers.  Metzner and his team have donated time and money to build the Network, and they are not making money because, for them, it is about giving back.

Metzner has been with the fire department for 13 years. His father was a captain with the city fire department, and his uncle was a lieutenant with the city police department.

"The seed was planted early in life with what I wanted to do with my life," he said.

About 65 businesses have signed up with the St. Louis HERO Network since it quietly launched last year.  In addition to posting business information, the site also features job postings, classes, and events geared toward first responders and veterans, and additional resources.

For all his work, Metzner will be honored as the Hometown Hero at the Blues game this Saturday (April 6).


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