Ice cream social season is here again-and those pies, cakes and scoops of ice cream represent an important source of revenue for many local volunteer fire departments.
"We're the only department in Washington County that isn't backed by a levy, so the social is our main fundraiser of the year," said Ron Warren, chief of the Little Muskingum Volunteer Fire Department.
The department covers a large service area that includes Lawrence, Ludlow, and parts of Independence and Liberty townships.
ROBB DECAMP Special to The Times
Carter Armstrong, 6, enjoys some ice cream during the Salem Volunteer Fire Department’s 2012 Ice Cream Social Saturday afternoon.
Warren said the department receives a total of $7,000 annually by contracting with the townships, but Little Muskingum relies heavily on fundraisers to provide most of the rest of the revenue. He noted the department's fish fries, held five times a year, have not gone well during the first part of this year, so the 2012 social will be especially important.
"Grant funding is getting smaller every year, too" he said. "We need a new squad vehicle and a pumper-the ones we have are getting pretty old-but we just can't afford them now. A new squad vehicle would cost around $120,000."
Warren said a tax levy would not provide much funding for the department as the tax-exempt Wayne National Forest takes up the lion's share of property within Little Muskingum's service area.
Upcoming fire department ice cream socials
Fearing Township Volunteer Fire Department, Saturday, June 9, 2012, 4 p.m. Fearing Township Fire Hall, 1975 Stanleyville Road, Whipple.
Little Muskingum VFD, Saturday, June 16, 4 p.m., Lawrence Elementary School, 14800 State Route 26, Marietta.
Wesley VFD, Saturday, June 16, noon Wesley VFD Fire Hall, Bartlett.
Warren Township VFD, Saturday, June 23, 4 to 9 p.m., Warren Station 1, State Route 550, Marietta.
Newport VFD, Saturday, June 30, 11 a.m., Newport VFD Fire Hall, State Route 7, Newport.
Other VFD socials are scheduled on the following dates:
Little Hocking, July 4.
Lowell-Adams, July 21.
Dunham, July 21.
Reno, July 28.
Matamoras Emergency festival, Aug. 4.
Oak Grove, Aug. 4.
Barlow, Aug. 11.
Devola, Aug 18.
Williamstown, July 20.
St. Marys, W.Va., Aug. 11.
Source: Jeff Lauer, Washington County EMA director, and Times' research.
The department's annual ice cream social is scheduled on June 16.
"We generally do well," Warren said. "We can raise between $9,000 and $10,000 if it's a good year. A lot depends on the weather."
On the western end of the county, Little Hocking VFD Chief Mike Chevalier said the fire company's annual ice cream social helps pay the bills. This year's social is on July 4.
"On a good day we normally raise around $7,000," he said. "It helps us raise some money for training and supplies, but in a larger sense the event is a homecoming for many people who come back home for the social every year."
Chevalier said Belpre Township provides some tax funding for the department through a half-mill levy.
He said there are no big projects planned this year, but the department is looking at purchasing new pagers for firefighters due to a federally-mandated change in operational frequencies that's impacting all area fire departments.
"And over the next several months we'll be developing specifications for a new truck that will probably be ordered late this year for delivery in 2013," Chevalier said. The new vehicle is expected to cost around $400,000.
While many of Washington County's 19 volunteer fire companies will hold ice cream socials to raise money this year, Beverly's VFD is an exception.
"We don't hold a social," said fire chief Phil Lowe. "Instead we have three pancake breakfasts a year, as well as a raffle for a new pickup truck. Those fundraisers seem to work better for us."
He said monies raised from those and other activities helps purchase fire hose, turnout gear and pagers for the department.
The Beverly VFD also receives some support from a township levy.