West End News Feb. 25

The Tofte Fire Department
The Tofte Fire Department

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It is time for a heads-up to all West End folks about an upcoming blood drive at Zoar church. The drive will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 2, from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m. By this time we all know about the chronic shortage of potentially life-saving blood and blood products.

More information is available from the blood drive coordinator, Polly Erickson, at 663-7398.

There is a very loyal group of donors who volunteer time after time. I asked Polly if she had any record of how many times the folks in her core group had donated. She did have that information and when she tabulated the data she and I both were surprised at the results. Over the years 23 folks have donated between 10 and 20 units of blood; 10 between 20 and 30 units; and six have given 30 or more units. Just using the 10-,20-, and 30-unit markers, this amounts to at least 610 units donated by our friends and neighbors. There are many more people who have also given from time to time. That is wonderful. To me, that’s what a community is all about.

I would imagine that filling out state and federal income tax forms is one of our least favorite things to do. Seniors need not despair. Help is at hand. Every Wednesday, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., trained volunteer tax preparers will be at the Birch Grove Center to help seniors with their tax returns. There is no charge for this service. Not only that, most returns can be filed electronically. If you have a refund due to you, electronic filing will get a check back to you in less than three weeks. Pretty nifty!

As the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns gets closer, the traffic gets heavier for the preparers, so if you can get it together, go to Birch Grove, and beat the crowd.

The feedback from West End folks who went to the story time at the Fishing Museum in Tofte to hear Walter Sve tell stories from his own personal experiences gave a "wonderful" rating to the event. A large crowd came to hear the stories. These events take place several times a year at the museum. This is really oral history from first-hand experiences. Thanks to Walter for his generous sharing with the community.

There is big news about the new fire truck that will soon be on line at the Tofte Fire Department. The word "new" is hardly understood in the Tofte department. From the beginning, finances only allowed for buying used equipment, always as good as possible for the money available. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time were invested in this used equipment both to get it ready for use and then to keep it running.

Tom Laine devoted a lot of energy to finding and acquiring what he called "good deals". His deals ranged from not so great to sensational. Along the way he picked up some surprising items. I remember mentioning to him that the Eden Prairie Fire Department was getting new turnout gear, and the old gear was surplus and available. I knew that because I worked in the Eden Prairie schools and the head custodian for the school district was a friend and also the fire chief. Tom took immediate action, and for quite a while the Tofte fire fighters had "Eden Prairie" printed on the back of the turnout gear.

Equipment came from wherever. The telephone company, back when there was just one telephone company, donated a surplus service pickup truck to the firemen. This was a neat truck with a lot of bins and drawers. This unit was Tofte's first unit assigned to the first responders. Then there was what looked like a homemade unit. It was a unit to slip into the bed of a pickup. It had a rectangular tank that held about 100 gallons of water. The power for the pump was a small Briggs and Stratton gas engine. It carried about 150 feet of inch-and-a-half rubber hose. This unit was for brush fires. It did the job on more than one occasion.

Over the years the equipment was improved, each unit a little better than the one it replaced. Fortunately the Tofte department has always been blessed with members who are excellent mechanics and heavy equipment operators.

Lutsen Fire was much the same story. Get what you could, fix it up, and keep it running as long as possible. The Lutsen department has had outstanding support from fundraisers and private donations, which have made a huge difference. The Schroeder department got off to a somewhat faster start. Back in the day when the town of Schroeder got quite a bit of money from the taconite operation, the town could afford to buy new or next-to-new equipment right away. Among other things, this gave the Schroeder department star status in the Fourth of July parades.

All along there has been a strong tradition of mutual aid among the departments. A fire in any one of the West End towns gets immediate cooperation from the other departments. No question, it happens. Many thanks to all of the volunteers, with their expertise, who have protected the West End communities for so many years.

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