Members of the Poland Volunteer Fire Department and their families inspect the department's new utility vehicle.
At the end of a year marked by financial woes and a fierce struggle to stay afloat, members of the Poland Volunteer Fire Department finally had something to smile about Sunday.
The department was presented with a new utility vehicle at its annual Christmas party at the Cataract Yacht Club, south of Putnamville. The donated minivan, freshly painted, upholstered and outfitted with sirens and radio equipment, was completely refurbished with donations of equipment and services from area businesses.
PVFD President Jim Carson, who coordinated the effort to restore the vehicle, estimated the retail value of the renovation at $10,000 to $12,000. He said the surprise presentation of the van provided a much-needed lift to members of the struggling department.
"This year has been especially tough on us," he said. "If it could go wrong, it did. And if it went wrong, it went ahead and blew up. This is something that should bring everybody a little bit of joy."
For much of the past year, it seemed rising insurance costs and increasingly stringent federal compliance regulations would force the rural department out of existence. The Brazil Times reported Nov. 14 that the PVFD would try to stay afloat by incorporating its service area as a fire protection district, which would allow the department to generate revenue through a property tax assessed to residents of the area the PVFD serves. Carson said the department is still in the process of applying for designation as a fire protection district.
The 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager was given to the PVFD by Loretta Terrell, a friend of the department who was no longer able to drive the van. She fought back tears as she watched department members and their families react to the presentation of the renovated vehicle.
"It's wonderful," she said. "They've done a wonderful job. I just hope it serves their purpose."
The businesses that contributed to the project were S and W Fleet Painting, Ackerman Auto Detail, Fabrion of Central Indiana, Carson Motors, Bud's CB Sales and Service, Sweet Owen Paint and Body Supplies, Dale McCullough Auto Sales and Service and Auto Accessories Unlimited.