Discount cards distributed to Greene County volunteer fire departments are helping firefighters raise much-needed funds.
The program is overseen by Alan Bohms, executive director of the non-profit Volunteer Firefighters Alliance. Local businesses act as partners.
One of those, Gateway Ford, recently purchased 1,800 discount cards for distribution to Greene County volunteer fire departments.
The dealership bought enough cards for the alliance to distribute at least 100 to each of the 14 volunteer fire departments.
The plastic discount cards sell for $10 and are good for discounts and "buy one get one" deals at area businesses for food and services, such as oil changes.
The discount cards have proven good sellers for the fire departments.
"This card pays for itself," Bohms said. "Every fire department in Greene County has these cards in their possession. When they sell them they keep 100 percent of the money at no cost to them."
Each volunteer fire department in Greene County sponsors annual fundraising events, which differ from department to department.
Fundraising efforts are vital to help meet expenses for each fire department, but anything additional is a big help.
"Each department took some and sold them," said Wesley Holt, chief of the Greene County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments.
"It's a good little thing. You make your money back with the card and the (public) pretty much donates the $10," Holt said.
The discount card program has proven successful in surrounding counties like Jefferson, Cocke and Hamblen.
"I have done this with four other counties and we've now started in Carter County," Bohms said.
Bohms is appreciative of businesses that purchased the discount fundraiser cards for distribution to the volunteer organizations.
"To me, it's a big deal when a local business steps up and helps out," he said. "I'll go out and help find the merchants to put on it."
Each of the volunteer fire departments gets $5,000 annually from the Greene County Commission, which also pays insurance for each department.
Even with each company's fundraisers, there is a gap that needs to be filled to help provide equipment and other necessities for each fire department.
Bohms recalled a recent discussion at a meeting of McDonald firefighters.
"I'm sitting at a meeting one day and we're talking about 20-year-old equipment we had, and we're talking about purchasing 10-year-old equipment," Bohms said. "That's when I thought, 'There's a problem here. There must be something better that can be done.'"
For more information on assisting local volunteer fire departments, go to www.supportvfa.org.