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Volunteer firefighters unite into association
"South Whidbey firefighters and volunteer medics started speaking with a single voice Sunday when they formed a new volunteer association.The South Whidbey Volunteer Association is the first of its kind within South Whidbey's Fire Protection District 3. Its formation, said association president Andy Campbell on Tuesday, will bring more volunteer service to the community and will give the volunteers themselves greater unity when negotiating future plans with FD 3 commanders and commissioners.Volunteers all give of themselves 365 days a year and it's just a way to give a little more, Campbell said. We do it because we care.In the past, hundreds of local residents and business people have donated money to the FD 3 volunteers to benefit volunteers and the rest of the community. Unfortunately, said Fire Chief Don Smith, much of that money went directly into the district's general fund instead of to the community or firefighters because donation checks were made out to Fire District 3. Without a volunteer association in place to receive this money under its own name, accounting procedures forced the district to absorb those donations.Under the new association, that money can go directly into the hands of volunteers, who can use it to benefit families at Christmas, to sponsor community events, or spend it in countless other ways to benefit South Whidbey residents. I'm tickled that they're coming together, Smith said.In addition to the money issue, both Smith and Campbell said having an association will make negotiations between the volunteers and district management more direct and effective. One issue on volunteers' minds these days, Campbell said, is the district's plan to eventually hire paid firefighters. Many volunteers in the association do not support that move, he said. Now, that opinion will come from the association in a single strong voice.Chief Smith said he does not doubt that voice will be effective.Politically, they have some power, he said.Campbell said associations are common in both paid and volunteer fire departments across the state.Those interested in making donations on behalf of FD3 volunteers are asked to make their checks payable to the South Whidbey Volunteer Association. The association will also offer corporate and associate memberships in the community to those who wish to benefit the district's volunteers. To find out more about the association, call Campbell at 579-2510. "