In an effort to boost supplies and equipment for the LSR Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the above-mentioned towns, Steiner resident Travis E. Cooper is organizing a major fundraiser.
His primary objective is to upgrade turnouts for the 15 volunteers in the program.
Cooper's target goal is $22,500, which would provide a $1,500 turnout upgrade for each individual firefighter.
"Right now the turnouts we have are not good enough," said Cooper. "They were throw-a-ways I went to pick up in South Carolina that are seven-years-old. What I'm hoping to raise is enough for a bare-minimum equipment upgrade for each firefighter."
In approximately a week and a half, Cooper has raised $17,500 in donations and he is confident the support will keep coming.
"This is about showing people what a community can do if they work together. I don't know of any other town, without a source of revenue, that has done what we've done with our fire department in a short period of time."
Cooper, who has spent his whole life in Steiner, donated the property where the department firehouse is located and was the original founder of the LSRVFD seven years ago.
He once served at the department's president but now holds no official title, which he said allows him to commit more time to fundraising and expansion for the 501c3 (nonprofit) organization.
"The pat doesn't go to me — it goes to the community and the dedicated group who serve completely as volunteers," said Cooper.
Cooper's son Chip has been serving as the fire chief for the last four years.
"I couldn't be any more pleased with the support we've received," added Cooper. "Donors have seen the need to protect our communities from fires. Our firefighters put their lives on the line, so we need to do all we can to provide them with the best equipment."
Donations have come in as small as $25 and as large as $1,500, all of which are tax deductible.
While Cooper shies from recognition, his commitment to the program has been unparalleled.
He recently helped organize a garage sale fundraiser and is currently heading a Boston butt campaign, where firefighters will smoke the meat for three days prior to Thanksgiving this year.
His dedication has allowed the department to accrue four fire trucks, a new firehouse, equipment, ongoing construction of a helicopter landing pad and constant training opportunities for the crew.
Although the department serves some of the most rural areas in Bolivar and Sunflower counties, Cooper continues to strive for more services.
"We have long-range plans to build a storm shelter at the firehouse, to base an ambulance there and have the water department place some fire hydrants."
The department welcomes new firemen and first responders, and meetings are held every third Monday at the Roundaway Baptist Church.
Cooper continues to seek support and can be contacted in reference to ongoing fundraising at 662-402-4437.