Community boosts Holland department

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Holland Volunteer Fire Department needed to replace a pump in one of its pumper trucks.

It was a simple problem that would cost more than $8,000 to fix.

The more complex problem became how to get those funds.

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“We decided we needed to raise some money,” said Mark Ellis, chief of the Holland Volunteer Fire Department. “We knew it was going to be tough.”

The department had several strikes against it: There are only a dozen members to participate in the fundraising, the economy is in a notoriously fragile state and the department’s name has been in the news lately because of Gordon Worrell, a former chief who has been convicted of sexual misconduct with former young male members of the department.

Undeterred, the department members went forward with their fundraising goal.

And the people of Holland were there to help the entire way.

In less than six months, the department raised more than $10,000 to replace the truck’s pump, as well as fix some accessories on the truck.

“In light of events … in the community, people still supported us,” Ellis said. “We were appreciative.”

Specifically, the members of the Holland Ruritan Club as well as the landowners of the Crossroads Hunt Club helped donate money and items to raffle off in the community.

“They were a big help to us,” Ellis said.

Additionally, local residents also stepped up for the cause. For example, Ruritan Ronnie White donated a timeshare week he has in Williamsburg. More than $1,000 worth of raffle tickets were sold for that alone.

“That’s very giving for one person,” Ellis said. Ellis added that the same spirit of giving was found throughout Holland. When one woman won a raffle for a new chainsaw, she told the volunteers to save the money from buying a new one and count it as another donation.

With the funds raised, the department could send the truck out for repair. The tanker truck was brought back last month, and Ellis said it runs much more efficiently.

“We feel the area is much safer with that equipment,” Ellis said.

Ellis said members will continue fundraising efforts to help expand the department’s services. As it is now, the volunteer departments receive only $10,000 from the city, which has to go to pay a number of bills – including the insurance on the volunteer department’s three trucks.

More important, he said, is the need for more men and women to volunteer. With just 12 members, the workload is heavy.

Volunteer firefighters help provide manpower and water to fire sites, and serve as a backup for the city’s firefighters when they go out on a call.

“They’re primarily the first ones out, and we’re right behind them,” Ellis said. “I want to be able to protect the people of this community, and I don’t want to tax out the people we have now to do it. These guys have jobs, like me, and they go to state certification training. It’s all for community service.”

To find out how to get involved, call 377-6178.