In a profession whose heroes often risk their lives to save others, Ashley McDonald of Winchester recently became something of a hero among her fellow firefighters in Clark County, when she helped save job positions and a fire station from recession-related budget cuts.
The 20-year-old Sullivan University business, marketing, and advertising major organized a campaign to raise money to save the jobs of three firefighters and avoid the closing of one of the county’s three fire stations, one of which is served by Clark Energy Cooperative.
Although her part-time firefighter’s position was not threatened by the cuts, Clark County battalion chief Ernest Barnes says that Ashley “devoted herself to this undertaking and…motivated a lot of people in the community and a lot of firefighters behind our cause.”
A compromise by firefighters on back pay, and Ashley’s awareness campaign, helped avert the job cuts and the station closing.
Ashley grew up in Clark County, where her parents, Jerry McDonald, an employee of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, and her mother, Christine, a real estate agent, set early examples of volunteerism.
Ashley experienced the power of human connections firsthand as a fifth-grader when her artwork commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Week was chosen first among the many displayed at the Clark County courthouse.
Her volunteer efforts continued during her teen years, with local charities, and mission trips to Mexico, Jamaica, and Haiti. While helping in an orphanage in Haiti at the age of 13, she lived with children who had little more than a roof over their heads. She watched in amazement as they found joy in playing games with cotton balls as their only toys.
“When I came back from Haiti, I could have been happy with a cot on the floor, because that’s more than they had,” she remembers. “I was actually adopted and never wanted for anything, so of all of those mission trips, Haiti was the one that made me realize the most.
“When I was hired by the fire department, it was like instantly becoming adopted into another family. So when I heard about the budget crunch, I was bound and determined that I was going to do whatever I possibly could to help.”