SOLON, Iowa (KWWL) - As a 33-year veteran of the Solon Volunteer Fire Department, Greg Morris appreciates integrity and hard work. As the head equipment manager for Iowa football, he appreciates sportsmanship and hospitality.
In December 2017, all of those things came together in New York City.
"I don't know that I was ever a Yankees fan, but I am now," Morris said.
The Hawkeyes played the Boston College Eagles in the 2017 New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. When first arriving at the stadium, the staff gave Morris a dark navy, canvas messenger bag with a Yankees insignia.
"Even though it was cold, and it was not baseball season, they still treated you great," Morris said.
He also remembers the stadium staff payed extremely close attention to detail.
When his fire department started fundraising for a new fire station in March 2019 --to replace a small, outdated headquarters built in 1959-- Morris was tapped to lead the charge. The first thing on his checklist was a bag to hold all his fundraising supplies.
"I looked at the Yankees bag that was sitting in our front room and I thought, 'You know what, that is a great reminder of persistence and doing things right,'" Morris said.
Over the last 2.5 years, the department has raised $1.2 million. The donations have come from over 1,300 people and seven different countries. Every donor has gotten a handwritten thank you card from Morris.
"That note spurred some people to give more; to think a little harder and be a bigger part of what we're doing," he said.
The cost of the new Solon fire house, which will serve over 3,600 address in northern Johnson County, is $4.2 million. It will have eight equipment bays that save firefighters tons of time getting their gear out.
On Wednesday, the Solon City Council voted to cover the remaining $3 million with general obligation bonds over the next 15 years. Construction is expected to start on a lot on the south side of town in four to six weeks.
City Administrator Cami Rasmussen says Plan A is to have voters pass new language in November that expands their local option sales tax to cover emergency response buildings. If that measure fails, they would use tax increment financing from established TIF districts.
Morris says just because the city has agreed to chip in doesn't mean the fundraising will stop. He knows the more they fundraise, the less will have to be paid in taxes.
"I'm this far into it, I'm not gonna stop now," Morris said.
On Thursday, Morris says they got another check for $5,000. He estimates of the roughly 3,000 people they serve, 1,000 have donated since 2019.
He plans to keep using the Yankees bag as a reminder of the integrity, persistence and detail that got them here.
"Just as a great reminder of where we started and where we're at. And maybe more than anything else, all the kind people that have not only given, but other folks I've gotten a chance to meet," Morris said.
Anyone looking to donate can find out more here.