Keeping the Flame Alive
Anna Katherine Faulk’s Rekindled business gives old fire gear new life and benefits firefighters and victims of fires.
The storyline of Rekindled is a love story, really.
It was first sparked in the 1980s, when Anna Katherine and Greg Faulk first met while working as volunteer firefighters together in southeastern North Carolina. Anna Katherine then moved away for a while and they lost touch. But in 2014, when she moved back to the Ocean Isle/Sunset Beach area, they managed to rekindle their relationship. The couple married in 2020.
“He was always my best friend, my biggest supporter,” Anna Katherine says. “And so now, the business name means so much more because we rekindled our relationship. … For me, my tagline, Old Gear, New Life truly means putting the fire back into the gear.”
Greg, a firefighter for more than 40 years in Calabash, Ocean Isle Beach, Shallotte and Sunset Beach, passed away on January 13, 2021, from complications he suffered from a work-related injury that occurred in 2018, when he broke both legs during Hurricane Florence.
“Since then, Rekindled has become a labor of love,” says Anna Katherine.
“Because, for me, it’s carrying on his memory. I had been struggling with my passion in life since he got hurt, because I’d done nothing but take care of him since October 2018. And, unfortunately, after some long complications, I had to take him to the hospital.”
The startup of the business nonprofit Rekindled involved Greg in more ways than one. In 2017 he asked Anna Katherine to make him a bag of some sort to hold his new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
“I told him I’d see if I could formulate a pattern, and he originally wanted it made out of denim,” she says. “Then, about a week or so later, he said, ‘Wait, I’ve got some expired turnout gear that maybe you can use.”
Fire turnout gear expires and needs to be replaced every 10 years. With that suggestion, Rekindled was born — and the business was soon on fire, so to speak.
Greg’s co-workers and those from other stations began donating expired turnout gear to be recycled into Anna Katherine’s mask bags, messenger bags, backpacks and duffle bags. She’s also playing around with patterns for wallets, Bible covers, shave kits and women’s purses.
“All the guys want duffle bags,” she says. “That’s because most of the guys, especially around here, work 12- or 24-hour shifts. So the bags can hold two days of clothes, toiletries and all of that.”
Greg used to help Anna Katherine completely disassemble the gear, stitch by stitch, to use every square inch for the bags, from the pant legs and knee pads to the coat and sleeves to the suspenders, clasps, zippers and DRD strap.
“Each bag is completely different from the last,” she says. “I never make the same one twice. I’ll put the pockets in different places. I’ll either use the name plate that was on the back of their capes or I’ll embroider their name onto the bag. … I have a laundry list of questions that I ask when somebody orders a bag.”
Three other special elements sewn into each bag are the Rekindled logo, her husband’s initials, GKS, and his station number, 1208, where he started his career in Calabash at age 16.
“So he goes along with every bag,” she adds.
Rekindled bag costs are affordable, between $150 and $200, with Anna Katherine donating 20 percent of each sale back to the local fire departments as well as the Fallen Firefighters of North Carolina in tribute of each firefighter who has ordered from her.
Her goal is for Rekindled to go completely nonprofit, with the help from her network of friends more well-versed in that sector, so the giving can extend to families who have lost a house or a family member due to fire. She’d like to help with medical bills or set up a scholarship in her husband’s name for high school seniors who want to go into fire service.
“For me, it’s about giving back to the guys,” Anna Katherine says. “Because our guys don’t make a whole lot of money. I mean, they make $10 or at the most $15 an hour to fight fire, which is nothing.”
Want to know more?
To order a Rekindled bag or for more information on how to donate expired fire gear, call Anna Katherine Faulk at (910) 209-1244 or (910) 368-3743. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rekindled-109904897944639.