It was the public’s turn to respond to the aid of Marion firefighters Sunday, packing the basement of Marion Community Center for a chili dinner to raise funds for new protective gear.
“We had to add more tables,” firefighter and dinner organizer Preston Williams said. “I think we had 10 crock pots, and I think there are only one or two left.”
Firefighter Matt Marsden wore a satisfied expression as he stood in the kitchen.
“See that 10-gallon silver pot on the stove? In 20 minutes, it was gone,” he said. “The turnout was awesome; the people have been amazing.”
Chef Marsden prepped the chili to appeal to the masses.
“It was just a nice, easygoing chili,” he said. “It’ll stick to your bones with a little bit of cornbread.”
Williams joined the department in January. As a firefighter in Ellsworth, he participated in their biannual fundraisers, and suggested the idea to Chief Mike Regnier.
“He said, ‘Well, that’s a good idea, I guess you’re in charge of it,’” Williams said.
Businesses stepped up to support the event. Ampride donated hot dogs, CB Bakery donated cookies, Carlsons’ Grocery shared the cost of food supplies, and a monetary donation from Cooperative Grain and Supply paid for plates, cups, and other items, Williams said.
Proceeds from the dinner will go toward new bunker gear, Regnier said.
“Our helmets are kind of obsolete, and a new helment is probably between $250 and $350,” he said. “For a full set of boots, hat, coat, and pants, it runs about $2,000. You mention fire, and everything goes up.”
The event also provided an opportunity for the public to meet some of the department’s newest members.
“We’ve got a few younger ones in,” Marsden said. “I think the youngest is 19 or 20. Before that, I was pretty much the youngest, and I’m 38.”
Regnier said the department has picked up five new members over the past two years.
“This is probably the most young people we’ve had get on at one time in a long time,” he said. “Other communities are really suffering for young people to get on, so we feel quite privileged to have them. A lot of people don’t know some of these guys. This gets us out in front, so it’s a great thing.”