The Cy-Fair Fire and Rescue Fund was launched in January with the goal of helping members of the Cy-Fair Fire Department with a wide array of financial assistance, from help with emergency medical costs to the establishment of a new scholarship fund through the Cy-Fair Education Foundation.
The fund—the brainchild of members of the department's board of directors—is open to all members of the department, including ambulance providers, office workers and firefighters who are paid, part-time or volunteers, Board Member Terry Wheeler said.
"What we really want to do is kind of fill in the holes where there [are] needs that sometimes come up with these folks that just can’t be met by an employer effectively," Wheeler said. "We want to be able to come in and do some work that needs to be done for these heroic people."
For Board Members Robert Carvell and Glenn Gates, who have been volunteers with the Cy-Fair Department since the early 1970s, the new fund is a way to reward firefighters for the sacrifices they make every day. For some, those sacrifices go back decades, Carvell said.
"The foundation is a way to reward the people in the department that sacrificed so much," he said. "For those who served in the '70s and '80s, you made every [call]. You could not just go out and go camping with your kids because you would worry and would not be able to enjoy yourself."
The new foundation will raise money largely through fundraisers and donations, Carvell said, and will not be funded by Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9, which raises money through taxes to fund the operation of the fire department. While the ESD pays for certain costs, such as gear and equipment, the fire and rescue fund will help costs the ESD would not cover, including emergency medical costs or specialty training. The foundation is on track to obtain 501(c)3 status, Gates said.
The fund is being kicked off with a $1,000 annual scholarship being awarded through the Cy-Fair Education Foundation, Gates said. The endowment is available to department members or a benefactor, such as a child or grandchild.
Moving forward, Gates said board members will take applications in considering what causes to fund. He said he would like to keep some funds on hand to ensure they are spread out instead of having all funds go to one or two causes. Members of the board will not be eligible for foundation money, Gates said.
Carvell, who serves as a driver for the department and often visits different stations, said the firefighters he has told about the foundation were grateful to hear about it.
"They are really excited about the possibility of us being there for them in their time of need," he said.
When Gates first started volunteering in 1974, he said the fire department sustained its entire operation on fundraisers and money volunteers took from their own pockets.
Since that time, officials have formed Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9, which raises money for the department through property and sales taxes. In 2019, the department began the process of shifting from a primarily volunteer force to a primarily paid force, a transition that Gates said will help improve the reliability and speed of fire response as population in Cy-Fair continues to grow rapidly.
Over the years, Gates said volunteers have always been driven by one main goal: a devotion to keeping their community safe.
"Anything to better the community with fire and ambulance service has been our goal," he said. "We're going to make it work however we can."