Hattiesburg businessman Jim Stroo raises money to help firefighters. Susan Broadbridge/Hattiesburg American
When Hattiesburg real estate broker Jim Stroo attended a luncheon last year in which Hattiesburg firefighters talked about what they do, he learned some of their equipment was outdated.
“We asked what can we do to give back to the fire department,” Stroo said.
The firefighters told the group of real estate executives, contractors and appraisers at the luncheon having new equipment would not only help save lives in the community but also protect the firefighters.
There wasn’t enough money in the city’s budget to replace the equipment, which included portable oxygen masks for the firefighters and infrared cameras to find people in a fire, so Stroo, who owns Realty Executives, decided to do something.
“The firemen needed it, not because the city wasn’t doing what they needed to do — they have multiple obligations they need to take care of,” Stroo said.
He started a fund through the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation and set a goal of raising $5,000.
While $5,000 won’t buy a lot of equipment, every new piece purchased makes the department stronger, Stroo said the firefighters told him.
Hattiesburg Fire Chief Paul Presley said he is pleased with the donation and the thoughtfulness of the community. He said it is a big morale boost for his department.
“It means a lot,” Presley said. “It really does.”
About 20 businesses and individuals contributed to the fund — bankers, closing attorneys and other businesses that do business with real estate agents.
“I explained the need exists,” Stroo said. “Some (equipment money) is budgeted, but there are limited resources.”
Mickey Ryan of Ryan Chevrolet was one of the donors to the fund. He said it was a way to show his appreciation to the fire department and other first responders.
“It’s just a small way to say thank you, we recognize you and appreciate you,” Ryan said. “I think they are rather the unsung heroes.”
The Friends of the Hattiesburg Firemen fund recently surpassed its goal, so on Wednesday, Stroo was able to present a check to the department for $5,407.75.
“Now the funds can be used for equipment when they choose and as they decide,” he said.
Stroo has another connection to the city’s fire department. About 1½ years ago, the building that housed his real estate office on Lamar Boulevard caught fire early in the morning.
The building is next to Fire Station 8, which also serves as a police substation.
“I got a call around 3:45 a.m.,” Stroo said. “By the time I got over there, the fire station had already come over and put it out.”
The source of the fire was never determined.
Although the fire was contained to a small area, there was so much soot, the building had to be rebuilt from the studs up, Stroo said.
“We certainly appreciate them,” he said.
How to help
The Friends of Hattiesburg Firemen was established to raise funds to benefit Hattiesburg firefighters by purchasing equipment such as portable oxygen masks and infrared cameras.
Donations may be made to the Friends of the Hattiesburg Firemen fund through the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation, pinebeltfoundation.org. Mail checks to the foundation at 1501 Adeline St., Hattiesburg, MS 39401. For more information, call (601) 583-6180.