Local Man Hopes Fire Dept. Donation Will Inspire Others

GIRDLETREE – A Newark resident says he hopes a recent donation to a local fire company will inspire others to support smaller, rural stations.

Earlier this year, Newark resident Grover Collins and his wife, Debbie, made a $4,000 donation to the Girdletree Vol. Fire Company for the purchase of a grain bin rescue apparatus. After watching a news broadcast about some fire departments receiving these devices, Grover said he decided to ask local stations if there was in need.

“When people fall into these grain bins, it’s like quicksand. You can’t even jump in to save someone …,” he said. “So they’ve created this mechanism and I thought it was a great idea, but I just didn’t understand why some of these fire companies didn’t have it.”

Grover said he began reaching out to fire departments in Berlin, Snow Hill and Girdletree, which he soon learned did not have a grain bin rescue device. To that end, he and his wife decided to make a $4,000 donation for its purchase, in honor of 2nd Lt. Brad Hauck.

“My thought was if something ever were to occur, they would have a machine in that part of the county,” he said. “They wouldn’t need to wait for Pocomoke or Snow Hill or Berlin to respond. It could save a life.”

According to the Maryland Farm Bureau, rural firefighters are often the first and only line of defense when someone becomes trapped in a grain bin.

While there are contests and programs to supply fire departments with grain bin rescue devices, the bureau reports many stations do not have such specialized equipment.

“It’s a grain bin rescue apparatus kit that is used by the fire service to assist and extract a person who may have fallen into a grain bin, and that does happen from time to time in the county, said Jeff McMahon, treasurer and public information officer for Girdletree Vol. Fire Company. “There are several kits already available in the county. It’s just that they are so spread out, and this is a time sensitive response.”

McMahon said his fire company is grateful to Grover for his generous donation, as it will allow for faster response times.

“This is a specialized need most fire companies don’t budget for, and they would have to make up for that,” he said. “By Mr. Collins donating the funds to purchase this, we were able to obtain one sooner than we would’ve through our budgeting process.”

Grover said he hopes his family’s donation inspires others to support local fire companies.

“A lot of the volunteers at these small fire companies are in the farming industry or are the sons of farmers, and these little fire companies need this equipment just as much, if not more …,” Grover said. “I am hoping my donation would inspire others to make that kind of donation to their local fire companies.”

Grover noted that most volunteer companies rely on events such as bingo nights and spaghetti dinners to raise funds for specialized equipment. He said contributions to local stations go a long way.

“They are doing these dinners and its labor intensive for the ones that put it on,” he said. “It would take them a year of fundraising to be even able to buy one of these grain bin rescue devices. Hopefully these donations will get them ahead of the game.”

McMahon said the fire company also relies on fundraisers and donations to not only fund specialized equipment, but cover unanticipated costs.

“Fundraising and donations are important because most of the companies are on a fixed budget with funding from the state and the county …,” he said. “Also, in the past year, rising costs – inflation and fuel – have really had an impact on fire and EMS services from a standpoint of being able to afford their response calls.”

Grover said he is hoping he and others can continue to support local fire companies.

“My hope is to get more people on board,” he said. “Maybe it can help save a life or two.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.