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Firehouse Feature - Co-chairs talk fundraising for new hall in Outlook

Campaign to raise funds for new Outlook hall already off to a commanding start.

OUTLOOK - When people see an obvious need, it doesn't take a whole lot of convincing for them to pledge their support and start to rally behind it in order to make it a reality.

In the last decade, the people of Outlook and area helped make a new swimming pool happen for the riverside community.

Now, a brand new fire hall is going to be built in the town of Outlook.

The question for the public remains the same: Do you want to help make it happen?

That's the question being asked by the volunteer-driven fundraising committee, co-chaired by Bree Campbell and Gerry Gross. The project's committee, or 'campaign cabinet', is comprised of volunteers who are tracking funds and levels of support for the future facility, and the work done so far is not only impressive, but it's also been rather speedy.

With a target of gathering $2 million in support, just under $600,000 has already been raised in pledges, as well as roughly $200,000 committed for in-kind work.

Sitting down with this reporter to talk about the fundraising campaign, Campbell and Gross say that the work they're doing along with the rest of the volunteer effort is just a small way of saying thank-you to the Outlook-Rudy Fire & Rescue crew.

It's also a case of volunteers helping volunteers, as those with the fire crew have daily jobs of their own that keep them busy. The co-chairs say that the time to help them out and make this new fire hall a reality is right now.

"No matter where you travel in Canada, outside of any cities, if you get in a wreck, then it's a bunch of volunteers that drop their tools or leave their kids at home and come and dig you out of your car," said Bree. "Our community's no different. You could be out working in the field and something bad happens, and then you're just waiting for them to come. You've been over to that current fire hall - it is TIGHT. A lot of people have bigger garages than that now. I think we can do better, and this is the time to do it."

"Our current equipment being located in four different facilities, it makes it very difficult for the crew to meet their nine-minute target," said Gerry. "Their alert response is to try and be there in nine minutes. So they've got to get the men in place, get whatever equipment they may need from whatever building, get dressed and bump into each other in front of the lockers, they don't know where to park in front of the building; all of these are logistical things, and they all take time off the response. We need these people to be real quick and they need to know where everything is without thinking about it. Right now, they have to think about it."

Enlisting the guidance of DCG Philanthropic Services, Campbell and Gross have been busy calling and setting up appointments with people, in which they give a well-rounded presentation on what the fire crew's needs are, touching on some history of the department, and provide options on a number of ways in which prospective donors can pledge their support.

The official logo for the Outlook-Rudy Fire & Rescue team. Photo provided by John Linsley.

The pair are driven to keep going, but they're also happy to see the progress that's been made so far in the campaign.

"We're two thirds of the way there and we're still meeting people," said Gerry. "People are showing signs that they want to be involved. We think that's awesome."

With a concentration on having face-to-face meetings with people, which allows them to help better describe where the department sets up shop right now and what the needs of the crew are, such meetings are showing to be successful in driving the point home with people who may wind up becoming invested both emotionally and financially.

The need for a new space for local firefighters dates back a number of years, with Campbell noting that it's been on everyone's radar for some time. Gross says that as every other facet of Outlook seemed to grow, the fire crew and its accommodations did not.

"I'd say that it's been very apparent in the last decade that they had a problem," said Gerry. "As the town grew and businesses grew, and the ag community's growing, and the population is growing, the fire department hasn't changed. The need is definitely there. There's some mentality of, 'Just tax and build it and get on with it', but we don't see it that way. We want people to know that it's a community thing. This is something that we all as a group have to get together and make it happen."

Commending the very active Outlook-Rudy Fireflies group, consisting of firefighter spouses, for all they're doing to promote everything related to the fire crew and the new hall campaign, Gross also gives respect to the crew for not letting their devotion waver, despite their current less-than-stellar home base.

"They're not struggling, but they're not efficient," said Gerry. "Their enthusiasm and their energy is making it happen. When they get on the phone, one person's going to get the boat or one person's going to get this or that, and so they'll pull it all together, but they definitely know that they lack efficiency. But when they get there, they are such a professional group of people."

The topic of a new fire hall has floated around the community for a number of years, with previous designs, including one referred to as the 'Taj Mahal' around town, failing to truly capture what is both needed and efficient for the local crew.

"I think when the previous plans were released, people felt - and myself included - that it may have been overkill for what our community needed," said Bree.

Nevertheless, the pair feel that the public is very much behind the idea of local firefighters having a new space to call its headquarters. As well, people are glad to see the Town and the RM working collaboratively again on things that bode well for the area's future.

"First of all, they're very happy that the RM of Rudy and the Town of Outlook are partnering on everything," said Gerry. "I've heard that time and time again, 'It's about time!'. The politics can't get involved and it's a joint venture. That's been very positive. Secondly, everyone reflects the need and they know that it needs to happen."

With the RM and the Town prepared to start building the new facility even before all the funds are collected, the message of this project is crystal clear: a new fire hall is indeed happening. With impressive funds already pledged and a number of in-kind services secured, the initiative only seems to be gathering momentum. With most people likely to commit money to something once they actually see something start to form - seeing is believing, as they say - the hope is that such momentum continues as Gross and Campbell continue their work.

Both of them remain ever devoted to doing all they can to help make such a facility come to fruition, aiding their local firefighters.

"They are so passionate about what they do," said Gerry. "I went to a BBQ last spring where Bree and I were named, and Bree was tied up, so I went with my wife Gail. They had their BBQ down in the park, and I said to Gail, 'I cannot believe how these guys and their spouses are so focused on this'. I got hugs from grown men just for being involved. They like what they're doing and proud of what they're doing. They're just such a good group."

"I'm never going to be able to be a part of that, but I can help build them a new fire hall," said Bree. "You think of what they do, and you put yourself in their shoes, and it can be so hard. I just think that it's incredible that all these guys are willing to do this, with employers willing to just let them go at the drop of a hat. It's pretty remarkable. Dalas must have some damn good leadership skills to have that same group of guys committed. The least we can do is help build them a new fire hall."

To anyone who may be interested in pledging to this community cause, Gerry and Bree can be reached by phone at 867-7544 (Gerry) or 260-7663 (Bree).