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Volunteer firefighters receive grant money

By Caleb Slinkard
On April 28, 2011


Texas A&M University-Commerce and the Commerce Community can sleep a little easier at night, thanks to a $732,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security that will increase the amount of local volunteer firefighters. As reported last semester by The East Texan, Fire Chief Brian McNevin applied for the grant in September of 2010 in hopes of establishing a program that would provide scholarships and stipends for local high school seniors and A&M-Commerce students for joining the volunteer fire department.

"The grant was awarded last week, we received notification from Senator John Cornyn," McNevin said. "Right now, we're finishing up the paperwork so we can begin to start drawing money on it. How long that will take, I don't know."

The grant period begins in mid-July and runs for four years, so McNevin has to determine when he can begin to use the funding before new volunteers can be accepted.

"We've been accepting applications and it has been such a long, drawn out process that we're not taking any more right now," McNevin said.

Once McNevin can draw money from the grant, he plans to begin a large marketing campaign.

"When this starts, we will be aggressively recruiting people," he said. "We will be working through the university; a portion of the grant money each year goes for marketing and advertisement, so we're going to get with the university and work with them for them to hit our target audience, our year-long students. "

According to McNevin, students who pass a physical test and are accepted into the program will go through a rigorous training program and get their certificates for firefighter level one and first responder. Each student volunteer will be required to be on call every third day for a 24-hour period and respond to a page from the fire department in five minutes. They will receive a stipend for every call they go on and will receive tuition reimbursement from the university.

McNevin also plans to attend Commerce High School soon to recruit students who will be graduating seniors in the next academic year.

After four years, the fire department will have to evaluate if they can continue the on-duty shift stipend at the same level.

"Hopefully, by the end of the fourth year, the economy will pick up and we can do that," McNevin said.

Regardless of when the program officially begins, the community is enthusiastic about it.

"I'm excited about it, Dr. Jones is excited, the city is excited and we're all looking forward to this thing starting to work," McNevin said. "We have our timeframe, and He has His, so we're sitting here right now thanking God for the blessing of the money and praying for the patience until He says we can go do this. We're really looking forward to working with the university and the high school. "

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