Emergency personnel purchase new Jaws of Life

By Mike Courson
Ellinwood Leader – April 4, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – April 11, 2014

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How do you raise a lot of money in a little time? The Ellinwood Fire Department and EMS teamed up to essentially raise more than $20,000 in less than two weeks. Those proceeds went to the purchase of a new Jaws of Life tool.

The departments currently share a tool that is approximately 30 years old. Knowing an updated tool would be needed, the departments got together in January 2013 to discuss a fundraiser. They decided on a gun raffle based on success the Waterville Fire Department had with its raffle.

“We were really looking for something that was just flat-out different,” said Ellinwood Fire Department Assistant Chief Spence Proffitt. “We discussed it among ourselves. Waterville had been having great success with theirs. We took their idea, changed it up quite a bit, and that’s how we came up with it.”

The process seemed simple enough: 800 tickets at $50 apiece would bring in $40,000. The departments would spend approximately $16,000 on the purchase of 30 guns–in the form of a variety of shotguns, rifles, handguns, and gift certificates. The original plan was to sell the raffle tickets from February to September.

“We were nervous,” Proffitt said. “Eight hundred tickets is not that bad if you’re talking $5 a ticket. Eight hundred tickets at $50 is a different story.”

But something funny happened. In just 12 days, all 800 tickets sold.

“There was a lot of phone time there for 12 days making sure we didn’t oversell,” said Proffitt. “We oversold by 30 or 40 tickets. We returned the money to those people. A few of them just said keep it as a donation. They weren’t just $50 tickets. They were $200-300 dollars worth of tickets.”

According to Proffitt, the process was as easy as distributing fliers around the state and posting the information on Facebook. “I didn’t have to sell tickets,” he said. “I took fliers and laid them out there and people picked one up. They sent their money and we returned a ticket to them. It was really easy. You didn’t have to peddle tickets. We just blanketed the entire state with fliers.”

The raffle drawing was moved up to March 16. Not only was that pleasing to contest winners, but the rapid ticket sales also helped the departments with the costs of the prizes. A deal was in place to delay payment if needed, but as the guns came in, revenue was already there from the ticket sales.

The profit of approximately $24,000 was used to buy an updated Jaws of Life tool. The jaws are a tool used in motor vehicle accidents where occupants are trapped inside the vehicle. The tool includes a set of spreaders, mini-spreaders, a ram, a set of cutters, and a hydraulic power unit. The jaws will be kept on a share vehicle between the fire department and EMS.

As Proffitt explained, newer vehicles have improved safety standards. That means tougher metals that were difficult to cut with the old set.

“Changes in motor vehicle safety standards required that cars be built more rigid and stronger,” he said. “They’re using some alloys and some laminating procedures–just like plywood is a laminated product. They’re doing the same thing with steel and it’s very difficult to cut with tools that were built even 10 years ago. The cutting strength and power is not there.”

In all, the fundraiser was very successful. Ellinwood not only has an important new tool and the money to but it came from private entities around the state.

“It pulled revenue from every corner of the state,” said Proffitt. “That was the neat thing. You really didn’t tap your local pocketbooks real hard. We were bringing in money from everywhere. People don’t have a problem with that. When they’re gun enthusiasts, they don’t care. They just want to enter a contest with a chance to win a gun.”

Proffitt said there was also a nice spread of winners–some local and others around the state. Given the success of this fundraiser, another one in the future is not out of the question.

“This was project-specific,” Proffitt said. “Should we come across another project that we would like to specifically promote, we would probably do it again. At this time, we haven’t jumped into one because there are other organizations in our area that are doing gun raffles. We just don’t want to interfere with someone else’s fundraiser. We don’t want to compete with them.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster