"It's unbelievable how much this will help," said Matthews fire chief T.J. Gantner. "This is the first time Matthews has a had anything brand new."
In 2003, Gantner drafted an application for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Homeland Security grant to purchase a new fire truck. Although it was approved, the volunteer fire department needed another $21,000 to match the $181,000 federal funds.
To earn the rest of the money to purchase a truck, the Matthews Volunteer Fire Department held its annual breakfast benefit, and the volunteers have parked cars at the annual Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo.
"All the money raised from parking goes to the Matthews Fire Department," Gantner said.
About nine years ago the Sikeston Jaycees contacted the Matthews Jaycees about parking cars at the rodeo and in return they would receive the proceeds from their services. The Matthews Jaycees decided not to do it, but thought the volunteers from the fire department would.
"The president of Matthews Jaycees was on the fire department at the time, and we decided any money we get from the rodeo would all go to the fire department," Gantner recalled.
The most recent fire trucks the department has are a 1972 pumper and a refurbished 1979 fire truck purchased in 2000 by money made from the rodeo, Gantner said.
The new truck is a state-of-the art, fully-loaded piece of machinery that will enable Matthews' volunteers to respond more efficiently, Gantner noted. "Now it's up to standard with all the codes," Gantner said. "The pump is bigger than what we used to have and it has a brand new air patch."
But working at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo didn't pay entirely for the truck.
"I didn't want to hurt the town of Matthews by all of the money coming from the Sikeston Jaycees," Gantner said.
Since the city of Matthews doesn't purchase equipment for the volunteer fire department, every year the department hosts a benefit breakfast, Gantner said. Also there's a Matthews resident who likes to stay anonymous that makes a donation every once in a while, he said.
On average the Matthew Fire Department volunteers work about 25-30 fires a year, and it's picking up now with the volunteers also responding to nearby towns like Canalou and Kewanee, Gantner said.
Residential house fires, grass fires on the highway and calls to the truck stop if fuel is leaking out of truck are typical situations for the volunteers, Gantner said.
In addition to the new fire truck, four of the volunteers recently became first responder certified so the department is well-equipped for emergencies now, Gantner said. With the closest ambulance 8 to 10 minutes away, Gantner said this is also helping the community and the South Scott County Ambulance District.
And with the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo currently taking place, volunteers with the Matthews Fire Department are again parking cars to raise money for their services.
"We like going up there and it gets to be a long day," Gantner said about working at the rodeo. "But it's a lot of fun and we have a good time."