Fire Departments Get "Good Neighbor" Grants

"I'd like to welcome everybody here. All my brothers from the fire department here. It doesn't take much to get them together, just a few dollars you know," said Biloxi fire chief David Roberts, standing in front of a line of oversize grant checks.

State Farm Insurance brought more than a "few dollars". Agents delivered nine big checks to firefighters. Sixty thousand dollars in all.

"We're very honored and privileged to be here today, to have an opportunity to give something back to you," said insurance company spokesman, J.D. Sparks.

Representatives from storm battered fire stations are happy for the help. Recovery is lengthy and costly. Checks for five and ten thousand dollars will be put to good use.

Chief David Garcia of Waveland says the grant check is most appreciated.

"Waveland you know, we lost practically all our infrastructure. City buildings, everything is just totally gone over there. Sales tax is starting to pick up but coming in slow. Property tax is going to be way down. So, any donations like this helps us a lot, being a small community."

The assistant chief in Bay St. Louis echoed those grateful feelings.

"It means a lot. It means we'll be able to get some equipment we lost during the storm. Replace it. Better equipment to help us better serve the citizens of Bay St. Louis," said Louis Prendergast.

Along with replacing equipment lost in the storm, area fire departments also face the challenge of operating under "bare bones" budgets post-Katrina. Long Beach will use its five thousand dollars to help pay for firefighter training.

"What a blessing to get the funding right here at this time. And what it means to us. It's great," said Long Beach Chief George Bass.

It's a feeling shared by grateful firefighters coast wide.

"You gentlemen who represent the fire departments here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are heros," said Sparks.

Grants of $5,000 each were awarded to the Fire Departments of Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Moss Point, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula. Fire Departments in the cities of Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian and Waveland, each received $10,000 grants.