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Mark Hardin was named the chief of the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department in 2021, and inherited a nearly nonexistent department. In fact, he was its only firefighter. The equipment dated back to the 1980s. And only one truck was running.

He admitted, “It needed a lot of work.” So Hardin reached out to the community, building his department’s Facebook presence. He offered the town weekly trainings, and recruited for firefighters. Today, the department has grown to 28 volunteers.

The firefighters cobbled together the best gear they could, and got the trucks running on their own. Hardin said of one truck, “Our tanker pumper has been patched together about 17 times in the last year I think I welded on that thing.”

Of course the department would have loved newer gear or trucks. But it just didn’t have the budget. Hardin revealed, “In March of this year, at the end of our first quarter, we had $169 left in our bank account.”

A fire engine shows off its rear end and side profile as it speeds to a scene.
A speeding fire engine | MattGush via iStock

You might think none of the residents of the small Missouri town would have been able to help. But local businessman Sam Sloan said, “Small-town people know how to handle a few dollars.”

The 91-year-old added, “I’m making a donation to the fire department. I’ve been planning to for several years…It’s half a million dollars and a half a million dollars is a pretty good donation.”

Sloan joked about the broken-down fire trucks, “I don’t know how to fix one of them things. But I know how to make a dollar.”

Hardin is thrilled, “Never in a million years would I ever expect anything like that for a rural fire department.”

So what is the plan for the money? Hardin has budgeted for three fire trucks, replacing the problematic tanker pumper first. He is also going to upgrade his men’s safety equipment. “Every one of our firefighters, from head to toe, we’re going to be fitted next Monday for new gear.”

What about the old gear? Hardin is offering that to any other area fire departments in need. Inspired by Sloan, he said, “We’re going to help our neighbors. We’re going to pass that along.”

Next, read about how New Jersey firefighters rescued a yellow lab trapped in a tire, or learn more about Sloan’s donation in the video below: