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Hometown Pride Winner: Jansen Rural Volunteers

In small towns across Nebraska, the members of local volunteer fire departments wear a lot of hats – after all, everyone has their day job in addition to being a volunteer. In the town of Jansen, population 100, they even do most of their fundraising themselves.

Jansen is in rural Jefferson County, about 6 miles east of Fairbury. Like most small farming communities, there’s a strong ethic of neighbors helping one another. That used to mean showing up whenever your neighbor’s land or buildings caught fire. Unfortunately, this wasn’t very effective. As volunteer Eddie Grummert says, “most of the time, things just burned down.”

That changed in 1976, when District No. 9 Jansen Volunteer Fire Department was created. Just one problem, though – no one was sure where they’d get the money to fund it. The tax base supported part of the cost, but not enough for much of the equipment they needed. So the folks who had already signed on as volunteers raised their hands once again.

They organized the Jansen Rural Volunteers as a separate fundraising arm to hold events and accept donations from the community. Over the past 47 years they’ve paid for many big-ticket items, most recently special equipment to extricate accident victims trapped in automobiles. They also cover the cost of all their own uniforms and cold weather gear.

Grummert is especially proud that they recently secured grants and underwent training to become the only Rope Rescue team in the county. This allows them to conduct rescue operations exceeding 100 feet, which is too high even for ladder trucks.

“I like the pace and the quiet of small-town life,” says Grummert, who also farms nearby. “But what I appreciate most is the fact that everyone knows each other, and they’re all willing to help out their neighbors.”

As proof, every member of the department is a non-paid volunteer. They selflessly accept the risks and long hours away from family to protect their community. Three of the 22 members live in town, and the rest are ag producers in the surrounding area.

This can make things especially challenging since the busiest times of year for farmers, planting and harvest, are also peak wildfire seasons.

As members of the Mutual Aid System, the Jansen volunteers often collaborate with neighboring fire departments and other organizations to fight large fires. In the spring of 2022, they were among 78 responders to a massive wildfire southwest of Lincoln.

To fund their operations, the volunteers raise donations by hosting some of the village’s biggest, most popular events. Pictures with Santa, including candy for the kids, has been a favorite for years. They also manage street closures for events like the Halloween Truck-or-Treat and summer street dances.

As the winners of our Hometown Pride contest, the Jansen Rural Volunteers receive a $500 prize. The money has already been earmarked toward outfitting a side-by-side that will improve their capability in wild lands operations and in rescue situations.

Congratulations once again to our Hometown Pride Winners, the Jansen Rural Volunteers!