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Cancellation of ice cream socials hits VFD budgets

A summer staple for many Washington County residents is the ice cream social at their local fire department.

Along with most activities this summer, ice cream socials are being canceled due to COVID-19.

“About everybody has something as a fundraiser,” said Mark Wile, Warren Volunteer Fire chief and president of the Washington County Fire Chiefs Association. “Almost everyone has a social which is their main, or only, fundraiser for the year.”

Wile said the fire chiefs he has spoken to are going without a fundraiser this year.

“There are a couple talking about having something in the fall,” Wile said. “As far as Warren goes, we’re going to cancel for the year and try again next year.”

He has talked to each of the fire departments about their fundraisers. So far, most have canceled, including Dunham, Little Hocking, Little Muskingum, Newport, Oak Grove, Salem and Warren.

Others haven’t decided yet.

“We’re not sure yet. June 4, we’ll have a meeting about it,” said Lowell-Adams Fire Chief Josh Harris. “We talked to (Washington County Health Administrator) Roger Coffman about it and we’re waiting to hear.”

Coffman said he is continuing to follow the governor’s recommendations regarding events like these.

“They’re waiting to see how the restaurant seating turns out,” he said. “And now there are wedding receptions. They’re waiting to make sure we don’t have a surge of cases.”

Reno Fire Chief Dan Ritchey said their ice cream social is a huge fundraiser for their station and the decision hasn’t been made yet. Their social is scheduled for the fourth Saturday in July.

“It’s a little different with us. We’ve got payroll because we’re staffed 24 hours a day,” he explained. “That’s why we’re holding out until the last minute. We put this money in our general fund and it’s used for operating expenses.”

He said not holding the fundraisers is going to be difficult for all of the fire departments.

“We probably make about $25,000 on average, that’s why we’re not wanting to cancel just yet,” he added. “We’re waiting to see what (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine) does. We’ve got a couple of months.”

Wile said it would restrict their budget as well.

“We’re going to have to be more frugal than we currently are,” he explained, noting they’ve had good turnout at the socials the last few years, so they have a little rollover. Warren’s fire department doesn’t use their money for operating expenses. They use the $8,000 from the socials for things they don’t want to spend taxpayer money on, such as hats or T-shirts.

“It also helps us buy equipment, but the levy money is taxpayer money,” he said. “I’m careful what I spend it on.”

Though they’re typically the largest, the ice cream socials aren’t the only fundraisers the fire departments hold during the year. The pandemic has also called those events into question.

The Beverly Volunteer Fire Department holds pancake breakfasts during the year. One scheduled for last week was canceled, but two upcoming ones are still undetermined.

“One is July 4 and we haven’t made a decision on it yet,” said fire chief Phil Lowe. “We also hold one during Fire Prevention Week in October.”

Last year, Devola’s fire department transitioned its ice cream social into a fall festival.

“Ours is undetermined,” Chief Harold Newlan said. “We’re meeting later to see whether we can hold it.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

Status of ice cream socials:

• Canceled – Dunham VFD; Little Hocking VFD; Little Muskingum VFD; Newport VFD; Oak Grove VFD; Salem VFD; and Warren VFD.

• Undetermined – Barlow VFD; Fearing VFD; Lowell-Adams VFD; Reno VFD; and Wesley VFD.

• Also undetermined – Beverly VFD pancake breakfast on July 4 and in mid-October; and fall festival in mid-October for Devola VFD.

Source: Washington County Fire Chiefs Association.

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