Pioneer Electric’s Operation Round Up funds local fire department grants

Published 10:01 pm Monday, October 24, 2022

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Pioneer Electric Cooperative, Inc. recently announced the award of $500 grants to 27 volunteer fire departments serving Butler, Dallas, Lowndes, and Wilcox counties, all thanks to the donations of cooperative members through the utility’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation.

This year, 14 Butler County volunteer fire departments received grants — Bowling Sandcut and Wald VFD, Brushey-Mashey Creek VFD, Central VFD, Friendship Industry and Welcome VFD, Forest Home VFD, Garland VFD, Liberty VFD, Midway-Damascus VFD, Providence & Mount Pisgah VFD, Pigeon Creek VFD, Searcy VFD, Shackleville VFD, Spring Creek VFD, and Starlington VFD.

The donations were presented at recent electrical safety training events and will assist with fire department operating expenses, training, and equipment.

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“We share a common goal of serving our communities and protecting their safety,” said Pioneer Electric General Manager Terry Moseley. “The safety of our employees and the general public is our top concern. We hope that the grants and training assist these departments in accomplishing that shared mission.”

According to Liberty volunteer and Butler Fire Association President Keith Foster, local departments have received some county funding this year, but that money only partially covers operating costs. Donations like these are vital for continuing operations, he said.

“If it weren’t for donations like this, the fire departments would be closed,” Foster explained. “Butler County and three other Alabama counties do not have a mandated tax specifically for the volunteer fire service.”

Foster said local departments usually borrow or acquire used equipment donated by larger municipal departments. Many host fundraisers like raffles or a turkey shoot to help make ends meet.

Operation Round Up is funded by cooperative members who elect to “round up” their monthly electric bill to the nearest dollar. All funds stay within Pioneer’s service community to benefit local organizations and individuals in need.

Since the foundation’s inception in 2021, Operation Round Up has awarded more than $100,000 in grants. Three Lowndes County departments also received grants this year, including Calhoun VFD, Collirene VFD, and Hicks Hill/Black Belt VFD.

Liberty’s VFD asks community members to help out by donating an extra dollar or two on their power or water bill. The utilities distribute monies received on a quarterly basis.

Foster said Butler County’s 16 volunteer fire departments need community support and new volunteers to continue operations.

“It may get to where one day [volunteer fire departments] won’t be there, because we don’t have the manpower and we don’t have the money,” Foster declared.