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VFDs struggle to raise funds

Buckwheat Festival cancellation impacts financial situation

KINGWOOD — For some Preston County volunteer departments,  the Buckwheat Festival means  buckwheat cakes and sausage dinners.

Money from those dinners helps fund the VFDs. It helps   pay their bills and buy or update their equipment.

“This (Buckwheat Festival) is our major fundraiser,” David Brown, president of the Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD),  said about the Buckwheat Festival. “We use the money to help buy equipment. We bought a new truck last year and we are making payments on it. This (having to cancel) will make a difference next year.”

He said since the state canceled all raffle licenses, the VFDs can no longer hold gun bashes or have bingo as fundraisers either.

Matt Clarkson, chief of the Fellowsville VFD, said he is not sure if they will be able to have their  dinners, but might have more take-out dinners.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. “So far we’ve lost everything (all of their fundraisers) but our take-out chicken dinner. It did exceptionally well. We posted pictures of the chicken cooking on Facebook, and we sold 300 dinners.”

  Clarkson said Fellowsville had to cancel its April buckwheat cake dinner and a large tractor pull it was  jointly holding with Grafton.

He said a decision will be made at the next department meeting on whether  to  have more take-out dinners to help raise needed funds.

Bill Larew, chief of the Newburg VFD, said his department has no  fundraisers planned through December.

“We’re just making our runs and working on our trucks,” he said. 

  Newburg is not the only VFD with no fundraisers scheduled.

Scott Spiker, chief of the Reedsville VFD,  said that department has canceled both a May gun bash and the Valley District Fair.

 “We have no fundraisers planned,” he said. We’ve cut all of our spending except utilities and equipment as needed.”

Spiker  said the VFDs still have bills to pay and equipment to buy.

He said he is hopeful  either the state or federal government will step in and help the local fire departments with some funding.

 Tunnelton VFD has become creative with its fundraising.

Franklin Schnopp, chief of the Tunnelton VFD, said his department’s fundraising was based on two gun bashes a year. 

He said when they could no longer have gun bashes, they teamed up with Dream Mountain and raffled off a hunting package.  

“We did one package and sold 500 tickets at $20 each.  Each ticket had two chances to win,” Schnopp said. “We are currently doing a second raffle.”

He said the current  package will offer  a three-day stay in one of Dream Mountain’s cabins, a guaranteed 130-inch buck, a wild hog and a ram.

“The drawing will be Aug. 31 on the West Virginia Daily Three,” Schnopp said. “The winner will be notified.”

He said a third raffle is planned for this fall.

“We each have to find what works and what we can do to pay the bills,” Schnopp said. “We are taking our med truck to Dream Mountain for the Fourth of July and we’ll also have someone there as a pool guard.”

In past years, the  Preston County Commission gave each of the county’s 12 volunteer fire departments an annual donation of $2,250 — or $27,000 total.

The cuts to the county’s 12 VFD’s  total $22,700. The county’s 2020-21 budget is estimated at $8,429,531.

Commissioners said the funding was eliminated due to declining tax revenues.

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