Local volunteer fire departments are desperate for funding and that’s especially true in Centre County. So to keep the doors open and the lights on, the Howard Volunteer Fire Company is chunkin’ some punkins.
On Saturday the Howard Volunteer Fire Company will host its 7th annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival, which has become a seasonal source of income for the department.
George Demchak, Vice President of Fund Development for Howard Volunteer Fire Co., said “The community support on Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival has exceeded our expectations.”
Demchak said the department’s yearly budget is about $125,000, and with sponsors, donations, and 130 food and craft vendors, their goal is to raise $25,000 from the fall festival.
Mark Ott, President of the Howard Volunteer Fire Co., said “We’re desperate for more help, we’re desperate for more money to keep our station going.”
The station needs funding to install a generator to become an emergency evacuation center, eventually a new roof, and breathing apparatuses for the crew; which adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ott said soon enough volunteering feels like another full time job.
“I think that’s a lot of reason fire companies are losing people, is because we’re asking them to do so much fundraising, on top of everything else,” Ott said.
This month the Auditor General said he released more than $60 million in volunteer firefighter’s relief association funds.
But after distributing that to more than 2,500 municipalities in 66 counties, Demchak said it only makes up about 20% of their annual revenue.
So catapulting pumpkins over a thousand feet in the air at up to 100 miles an hour is a fun way to keep their operation going.
“It is exciting! If you have never seen a ten pound pumpkin fly across this lake, at break-neck speed, you just haven’t lived,” Demchak said.
If you want to show your support, the event is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bald Eagle State Park