Lee Center firefighters hope mail campaign delivers

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TOWN OF LEE — Noting its added importance this year due to COVID-19’s impact on other fundraising events, the Lee Center Volunteer Fire Department’s annual fund drive by mail is underway.

Seeking assistance with expenses such as equipment updates and new purchases, the department recently mailed about 2,600 letters to town addresses along with stamped and self-addressed envelopes for people to mail in donations.

The previous fund drive a year ago raised about $16,000, and the department hopes to raise a similar amount this time, said fire department President William Baker, also a department lieutenant as a line officer. He observed “more, of course, would be nice” considering the department is “not able to do bingo and other fundraisers” because of COVID-19.

Besides bingo, among some other fundraisers canceled have been raffles, said Baker, and the department was able to hold a golf tournament fundraiser but it was not as successful amid COVID-19 restrictions.

He also pointed out the fire department Ladies Auxiliary, which does not receive money from the fund drive, has helped with department equipment expenses at times in other years but has not been able to raise money this year from activities like election-day bake sales and running the kitchen for special Coach-purse bingo events.

“Today we are all feeling the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the fire department’s letter that was mailed for the fund drive. “This pandemic has caused a significant impact on the...department’s fundraising capabilities for 2020. We have had to close down our Saturday night bingo and cancel our other fundraising activities. This year more than ever we really need your continued support....”

The fund drive by mail, which has been the department’s biggest fundraiser in prior years, seeks to supplement the taxpayer-funded Town of Lee Fire District budget and help keep that budget from being larger, said Baker. The budget, overseen by the town Board of Fire Commissioners, primarily includes expenses for the Lee Center firehouse and the Lee Center Volunteer Fire Department.

The department’s own purchases for equipment or other purposes from the latest upcoming fund drive money are still to be specified, Baker said.

He also noted there are “still bills to pay” ongoing for the fire department’s separate facilities such as insurance and utility expenses for its firemen’s field including the bingo hall.

The department hopes to revive fundraisers such as bingo at some point pending COVID-19 restrictions, but it likely would not be until at least early next year or later, commented Baker.

With fewer money-raising events, “it’s definitely depleted our funds” overall, said Baker. The department has cut back its donations to other non-profit organizations that had been generated from part of the bingo proceeds, he remarked. The department also may not be able to update equipment or make new equipment purchases as much as anticipated.

Regarding activities like the fund drive by mail, “we really appreciate what the public does for us....It’s greatly appreciated by all members of the fire department,” Baker said. “It’s great to have that support from the community.”

The department’s members responded to over 400 alarms in 2019, said the fund drive letter. That was up from 385 calls in 2018.

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