The financially strapped Letcher Volunteer Fire and Rescue got a small, but morale-boosting surprise last week in the form of an unsolicited $40 donation.
While $40 might not seem like that much, it came from outside the state and meant the world to the ambulance service personnel and firefighters.
“That gives us the feeling that the community is still behind us,” EMS Director Shawn Gilley said. “It gives us that little push to keep going.”
The two $20 bills came from a Mountain Eagle subscriber in New Paris, Ohio, who read a story in the newspaper about the fire department’s struggles. It arrived at the The Mountain Eagle office with a clipping of the newspaper story and a sticky note saying it was to help Letcher Fire Department. There is no telephone number for the subscriber in the newspaper’s files, and no home telephone number listed. A message left on the voice mail of a cell phone number found online went unreturned.
Neither Gilley nor Fire Chief Wallace Bolling Jr. know the man. Gilley said the gesture made him a little emotional.
“The biggest thing that has helped us at Letcher is stuff like this,” he said. “We get donations from the community.”
He said the community can put the idea out of their heads that the service is going to go under. The service is doing much better financially, and now has to worry only about a payroll, fuel, maintenance, and regular monthly bills. All back utility payments have been paid, and the service is no longer facing default on a loan after the Letcher Fiscal Court fronted it money to pay off the loan, Gilley said. The department borrowed money from the Kentucky Association of Counties to pay off the fiscal court, and makes a monthly bond payment that is up to date, he said.
“But our local vendors that we owed, we might have a couple that have a minimal amount owed, but they will be paid off very soon,” he said. “We’re here to stay.”
Gilley said the department has also advertised for a director of paramedicine, and is in discussions with state officials, area colleges and a grant writer about becoming an Advanced Life Support service again. Currently, Letcher is a Basic Life Support Service. The change would mean adding paramedics to the ambulances who can give life-saving medications, perform intubations, and insert IVs en route to the hospital. Emergency medical technicians staff the service’s ambulances now, and can provide only a limited number of oral medications and no intravenous drugs.