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Fundraiser goal for ambulance in reach

POSTED: May 8, 2009 11:38 p.m.

During these tough economic times, most people would be unlikely to turn down free money.

Not even governmental agencies can resist. Just ask the Lumpkin County Fire and EMS department.

The department has been presented a unique challenge from a family associated with a local manufacturing plant, and it has gladly accepted.

"Every year, the Timken Foundation does something in the communities where they have a facility," said Ed Eggert, Lumpkin fire chief.

"This year they came up with a proposal, challenging us to raise $50,000 in donations from the community. If we can meet that challenge, they will give us $150,000 for a new ambulance."

The Timken Foundation is the private, family foundation from the founders of the Timken Company. There has been a Timken Company manufacturing plant in Lumpkin County since 1980.

The Timken Foundation challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. Eggert says the county is in desperate need of emergency equipment.

"Our current level of demand requires at least three first-line ambulances. Two of the three we have in service are well past their prime," Eggert said. "And the stand-by unit has over 200,000 miles on it. Even Lumpkin County’s excellent mechanics can’t guarantee reliability with that kind of mileage."

According to the fire chief, the two main units each have more than 150,000 miles on them.

Reliable ambulances are important in a community that generates thousands of calls each year. Last year, Lumpkin County ambulances responded to nearly 3,000 calls in an area of nearly 30,000 people.

So far this year, the ambulances have transported residents to hospitals 91 times and have responded to 701 emergency medical calls.

Since starting the fund drive in November, the department has raised around $37,000. With a June 1 deadline, they still have about $13,000 left to raise. With or without the Timken Foundation contributions, Lumpkin officials say they will have to purchase at least one new ambulance soon.

If government money is used, that cost could eventually be rolled over to residents in the form of higher taxes or costs for services.

"If our community can raise just 25 percent of the cost, we have the opportunity to purchase a top-of-the-line ambulance without using any tax dollars," Eggert said. "This way, community members can give what they can afford to pay."


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