LEHIGH - At the direction of a local farmer, the Monsanto Fund has made a $5,000 donation that will pay for gear to keep Lehigh's volunteer firefighters safe.
Jim Jackson, who farms 500 acres near Brushy Creek State Recreation Area in Webster County, won a drawing through the Monsanto Fund that enabled him to direct a $2,500 grant to the nonprofit organization of his choice.
Since Webster County was declared a disaster area by the United States Department of Agriculture because of drought-related crop losses, the Monsanto Fund allowed Jackson to direct the award of a second $2,500 grant, according to Sam Condon, a district sales manager for Monsanto.
Jackson chose to give both grants, a total of $5,000, to the Lehigh Fire Department. He said Thursday that the department was his first choice for the money.
''When they're a volunteer fire department, they don't have the money like they do in a big city,'' he said.
''A lot of the time, they give a lot of their time to be a fireman,'' he added.
Jackson joined Condon and Lehigh officials Thursday afternoon to present symbolic checks.
Fire Chief Kirk Kelley said the money will be spent to buy two sets of protective clothing called bunker gear, several helmets, about 10 pairs of boots, some gloves and two fire hose nozzles.
''This is some stuff that we really needed,'' he said.
Kelley said the equipment has already been ordered.
Condon said money was provided by a program called America's Farmers Grow Communities. More than 60,000 farmers participate in it, he said.
He said that 1,271 counties in 39 states are eligible for the program.
The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic branch of the Monsanto Co., works to support rural communities.