Stantonville, Michie FDs: raising funds to fight fires
By Megan Smith
The Town of Stantonville held a fish fry at the Stantonville Community Center on Jan. 6 to raise money for their volunteer fire department. Volunteers served all-you-can-eat chicken, catfish and shrimp along with salads and desserts. Jane Russell serves a plate to a hungry customer during the event. The fire department holds a fundraising dinner on the first Friday of each month.
Fire fighting equipment doesn’t come cheap, and to two local fire chiefs, it’s essential.
Stantonville Fire Chief Larry Russell and Michie Fire Chief Shirley Clark have two different approaches to this issue.
For Stantonville Volunteer Fire Department, fundraisers are irreplaceable. Most of the department’s original equipment was paid for by grants, according to Mayor Larry Raines. However, they could not do what they do without the community support they receive at their frequent fundraisers, Russell said.
Russell’s reliance on fundraisers could come in part from what made him decide to join the department in the first place.
In 1997, Russell joined the Stantonville Volunteer Fire Department.
“I had a chimney fire and people dropped everything they were doing and came to help me,” Russell said.
“We all have to give back to the community where we live. That’s a very important thing, at least to me,” Russell said.
On the first Friday of every month, the department holds a fish fry.
“We’re not as big as some of the departments as far as the fundraising is concerned, but people come out because it is the fire department,” Russell said.
Though the department’s equipment is old, it is still in good shape, according to Russell.
“We have to make sure that everything is maintained,” he said.
They do so through their fundraisers.
During the perhaps most memorable fundraiser, Tim McGraw was the entertainment.
The department used to hold a Fire Festival the weekend before Memorial Day.
Eddie Bond was the chief promoter of this festival, and in the early 90’s the department was lucky enough to have Tim McGraw play for free at the festival.
Such fundraisers are essential to the department, according to Russell.
“I’m thankful for everybody that volunteers and everybody that helps. Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to operate,” he said.
The fundraisers are important in covering operating and insurance costs as well as in paying for some pieces of equipment.
According to Russell, a firefighter costs $1,200 to $1,500 to equip.
Fortunately, grants can help with a lot of the equipment costs.
The community support in Stantonville stretches beyond attending fundraisers.
Russell recounted a fire that the department faced in the summer of 2009. It was the worst fire he could remember fighting.
According to Russell, during that fire community members helped the firefighters in any way possible. Many brought cases of water for the men.
“We’re fortunate to be where we are,” Russell said.
Michie Volunteer Fire Department also struggles to cover some costs.
Currently, their tanker is out. Because of its age, the department is unable to purchase the necessary parts to repair it. According to Clark, the truck will most likely have to be taken apart and rebuilt.
Grants are very important to Michie Volunteer Fire Department.
“We don’t do too many fundraisers,” Clark said.
Currently, the department is awaiting an expected grant for a new pumper.
The department also got a new rescue truck three years ago.
“I’d rather write grants than do a fundraiser,” Clark said.
Clark’s interest in volunteer work goes beyond fighting fires.
She serves as a director in the Retired Senior Volunteer program, meaning she helps to
“I’ve always done volunteer work,” Clark said.
Clark became involved in the Michie Volunteer Fire Department shortly after she moved to town from Texas.
Her background was in the medical field, so it made sense for her to become a medical first responder in 2004.
Clark helped to start the McNairy County First Responder Association, the McNairy County Fire Chief Association, and the West Tennessee Chief Association.
“The more we network, the stronger we all are,” Clark said.
According to Clark, the department receives great community support and has excellent relations with the mayor and all the aldermen in Michie.