Horseshoe Bend answers fire department's call for financial help - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Horseshoe Bend answers fire department's call for financial help

HORSESHOE BEND, AR (KAIT) – Anytime there's a fire in Horseshoe Bend, the community can count on the fire department to respond.

The roles, however, reversed when a financial emergency arose. This time, the firefighters needed the community's help to replace a key piece of equipment – a pumper truck.

Their neighbors answered their call for help quickly and generously, allowing the department to once again have a full fleet of vehicles.

"The final child's home," firefighter Jeanette Hilliker said. "All the kids are home, and we're complete. We appreciate the community so much for supporting us and getting us back where we were. It feels good to be complete."

Back in 2009, a fire destroyed the Horseshoe Bend fire station and everything inside it. Insurance payments, grants and donations helped the firefighters replace everything, but one pumper truck.

Last summer, the fire department put together a committee with an ambitious fundraising goal. They asked the community to help them collect the $90,000 that they needed to buy a new truck.

Firefighter Al Comen says not only did people step up and hold different events to support the cause, but they also raised money much faster than many anticipated.

"I guess some folks said, ‘It's going to take you two to three years,'" Comen said. "I thought no, we're going to do it in a year. And by golly, this last August we had all the money together."

"There was more support out there than we realized once it started happening," Jeanette said. "The ball started rolling. There were people saying I want to do a fundraiser, a bass tournament, a golf tournament and stuff like that. It was just overwhelming."

In fact the community's contributions to the cause topped more than $67,000 – almost half the total fundraising haul.

The firefighters rounded out the rest of the funding using grants from two local legislators ($25,000) as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture ($32,000).

The fire department credits the latter grant to the media exposure that its fundraising effort received after Region 8 News aired a story in April 2013. A day after the story aired, a representative from the USDA apparently contacted the fire chief and promised him the sizable sum of money.

"That just brought us way over the top of what we hoped to get," Comen said, "so we were able to do even better in terms of what our goal was and getting a much newer truck and a better equipped truck. We're back in service."

The firefighters may have set the initial fundraising goal at $90,000, but the total haul came in somewhere around $152,000, according to Fire Chief Mike Hilliker.

"We spent $127,000 on this 1996 truck," Mike said. "We outfitted it with another $22,000 to $25,000 worth of equipment. We still have more equipment that we'll have to purchase, as the money comes in."

"We were able to purchase a newer truck, and it fits our criteria where we needed more water and a bigger pump," he added. "It's a blessing to live in Horseshoe Bend."

On October 25, the Horseshoe Bend Fire Department sent six firefighters to Rogersville, Missouri, to pick up the truck. The pumper truck finally went into service on Monday, much to the relief and excitement of everyone.

"It's taken us four-and-a-half years," Comen said, "and we're finally here with this last piece of the puzzle."

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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