Volunteers worked nonstop to make sure that the fundraiser went off without a hitch. 

If you were among those who bought stew at the Houlka Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser late last month, when you laid your money down at the Fire Station -- and so many people did that they sold out -- you got a whole lot more than just a cup of stew.

Chief Jo Cross said the department sold 60 gallons of stew and raising $1,800.

As a citizen of the Houlka department’s area of operation, you got a heck of a bargain for the cost of a cup of stew.

You got a great bargain even if you lived outside the area of operations. Fire departments are quick to assist each other. The fire department that covers your area today could be calling the Houlka department for help tomorrow if a fire gets bad enough.

You helped equip folks who do what most people wouldn’t do -- run toward and sometimes into a fire, regardless of the threat to their own lives, at any hour of the day or night, in any conditions, and do it without pay.

Remember too, that these folks take time away from their jobs to fight fires. While they’re absent, that’s money they’ve lost while performing a community service.

Business is steady: The department has responded to four house fires and 20 EMR (emergency medical response) calls since last September, Chief Cross said.

There was more to the January event than just serving stew. Although that’s what the public saw, what the public didn’t see was the firefighters setting up for the fundraiser, staying all Friday night and into Saturday cooking the stew, and cleaning up afterward.

She also talked about other donations the department has received to help make much needed improvements.

The department is working on a project where one church has offered to donate $5,000 for a matching donation from another church, and several businesses have already donated $1,000.

Along a related line, New Houlka’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen last month took steps to upgrade a part of Town Hall occupied by the Fire Department.

Aldermen OK’d Houlka volunteer firefighters Derek and Danielle Earp to work on the back of Town Hall occupied by the Volunteer Fire Department. This includes painting the doors and all woodwork, painting or staining the floor of the bay where the fire truck is parked as well as putting lettering on the doors outside.

Why does the department undertake these projects?

“It’s all about our town and community. We just want to provide and be better at what we do,” the chief said.

Chief Cross said the 33-member department is always looking for more volunteers. “We need all the help we can get, and we’re always looking for good young people to come join us.”

The ideal firefighter “would be strong, energetic and willing to learn. If you get into it for the right reasons and have the heart for it, you’ll make a great firefighter,” the chief said.

Those interested can contact Chief Cross at 662 542 8170 for more information.

The department meets the first and third Thursdays nights monthly at 7 p.m.

The stew turnout impressed Chief Cross; “I just thank God and our community for supporting us.”

The community, in turn, should thank God and the men and women who care enough to become firefighters…

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