Roanoke-Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department’s Chief Lorenzo Wilkins has been a firefighter for going on 16 years.
Six of those years he has worked as chief. The main reason he is in the field — because he loves helping others, he said.
“I did this because I’m originally from this area — this is home and I wanted to give back to a community I care about and that I love,” he said. “I was always raised to help your neighbor, and I can’t think of a better way to help that neighbor than when an emergency comes.”
And for about four months, the department staff has been driving into those emergencies in a little more style, with a new, 2019 Class A Pumper truck.
RWVFD recently received a 10-year, $360,000 zero-interest loan from Halifax Electric Membership Corp. to purchase the new truck, according to a press release from Halifax EMC of Enfield. Halifax EMC is a local, member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative serving more than 10,000 electric members in Halifax, Warren, and parts of Nash and Martin counties.
The funds were made possible primarily by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program awarded to Halifax EMC for its Community Revolving Loan program, the press release reads. The program provides zero-interest funds to local electric cooperatives who in turn lend the money to local entities for projects that support rural areas.
“On behalf of Roanoke-Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department, I would like to thank the USDA and Halifax Electric for the hard work and dedication to provide us this zero-interest loan,” RWVFD President Eric Davis said in the press release. “Their continued involvement in the community is essential and greatly appreciated amongst community members.”
Wilkins said it has been awhile since the department had a truck like the one purchased.
“It was definitely a need, because our area has grown tremendously with new homes and people retiring and moving to the lake area and our district expanded as well,” he said. “With all of those factors, and some of our trucks were getting up in age for safety concerns as well as us trying to stay in compliance — we thought it was a good time to pursue getting a new pumper.”
While the department had received the truck in the fall, Brady Martin, Halifax EMC manager of Marketing and Economic Development, said RWVFD had recently received the loan from Halifax EMC. RWVFD was receiving assistance from another fire department in Virginia, which had to suspend that assistance in order to have facilities and equipment available to serve that northern part of the region in Warren County, Martin said.
RWVFD found a truck they could purchase, and received some interim bridge financing available at that time to get the truck, he said.
“As soon as we heard about the first of this year we were able to apply and process the loan to them,” he said. “One of the principals the electric coops share is community support and looking for ways to better our communities through economic development, and we have that tool available to us. We have a very compassionate board with a coop who encourages us to seek opportunities to provide assistance and funding that we can put back into the community we serve.”
Charles Guerry, Halifax EMC executive vice president, said commitment to communities is one of the core values that has guided Halifax EMC since it was founded in 1938.
“This zero-interest loan program through the USDA allows us to support rural organizations in our communities far beyond our electric service,” he said. “We want our communities to be great places to live, work and raise a family.”
Wilkins said the technology and the truck’s capabilities make the job a lot easier.
“It allows us to carry more members on the truck and it has state-of-the-art safety features of which I am very happy with,” he said. “Safety is what we preach and we want to make sure all our firefighters are safe. It makes it very good for us in the department.”
That department has 30 firefighters and they are always recruiting anyone willing to help the community,” Wilkins said.
“It is very rewarding,” he said. “You meet a lot of people and you are helping your neighbor which is the most important part to me. I would love to thank the people in our fire district and our community. They are very supportive and they really care about our fire department which allows us to do the job we do. I want to give a huge thank you to the citizens of the Roanoke-Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department for their continuing help and prayers, because they are definitely needed.”
Those folks 18 and older who would like to join the department, email Chief Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 252-586-5737, or leave a message on the Facebook page.