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Everyday heroes

At River Valley Cooperative, based in Davenport, Iowa, more than 20 employees are part of local firefighter brigades in their communities.

Sep 21, 2020

About 70 percent of America’s firefighters are volunteers and 85 percent of the country’s fire departments are entirely or mostly volunteer-run, according to the National Fire Protection Association. At River Valley Cooperative, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, and serves farmer-owners and customers in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, more than 20 employees are part of local firefighter brigades in their communities.

Don McGonegle works full-time at River Valley Cooperative and is a volunteer firefighter in Grand Mound, Iowa.

For many of these firefighters, serving their neighbors is in their blood. “I grew up following my dad to the fire station,” says Don McGonegle, maintenance shop manager. In his community of Grand Mound, Iowa, located about a half hour from the Illinois border, he’s part of a 24-member volunteer fire brigade that still includes McGonegle’s father.

“I want to be directly involved in my community and have a positive impact,” says McGonegle, who adds it’s common to know the residents of the house he’s called to protect. “All of the people in our community know each other and we help each other in one way or another.

River Valley Cooperative gladly shares its employees with the community. “If we have to leave work to get our gear on and fight a fire, the co-op is supportive of that,” McGonegle says, adding that River Valley also provides financial support by connecting fire departments with potential sponsors and partners.

This article appeared as part of the cover story in C magazine. Read the full article for more stories about how others are giving back to their local communities.