North Columbia Fire and Rescue no longer exists, but a donation has ensured that he name will live on in a way that fosters the training of new firefighters and medical first responders from rural Columbia County.
The board of directors of the department solicited ideas from its "owners," residents of its former service area, before deciding what to do with about $135,000 remaining after debts were paid when the department ceased operations January 2006, said Daniel Harrell, the board chairman.
They chose to make the name mean something important through a $20,000 endowment donation to Augusta Technical College for the Fire Science and EMT/Paramedic programs.
"That's what our goal is, was and still will be, is that this money will be perpetual and for the men and women who have contributed all these years," said Harrell, who has worked in fire service for nearly 30 years. "That money will continue to work until I'm gone."
The amount of the annual scholarship is expected to be $300-$500 for Augusta Tech students from the Leah, Winfield and Appling communities, said Beverly Peltier, the college's director of institutional advancement and manager of the Augusta Technical College Foundation, which oversees the endowment funds.
Each of the two $10,000 donations will be invested and the scholarship funds will come from the income generated from the original donations' interest, Peltier said.
"In other words, that is going to go on into perpetuity," Peltier said. "That's the one reason why I like scholarship endowments, because long after these folks and I am gone, that money will still be out there continuing to work for future generations of students."
For decades, the volunteer fire departments of the Leah, Winfield and Appling communities provided fire service to residents on a subscription basis.
In March 2004, the departments merged to form North Columbia Fire and Rescue.
That entity ceased operations when Columbia County's government contracted with Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue to provide fire service to all unincorporated areas of the county.
Harrell said the now-defunct department was left with $311,000 in debt, including $85,000 on a newly constructed Columbia Road fire station. The department's equipment, including fire trucks, was sold to recoup costs.
The department was left with about $135,000 after the debts were paid. Board members decided to meet with residents in the former subscription areas for ideas about what to do with the money.
Harrell said suggestions included making improvements to the Eubank Blanchard Community Center. But the money would have been used and gone, he said.
So the department bought the Georgia Forestry Commission a Polaris all-terrain vehicle for fire suppression and made two $10,000 endowment donations to Augusta Tech for the Fire Science and EMT/Paramedic programs, for which a new building will soon be constructed on campus.
"It was decided that (the money) would be an ongoing gift back to the community and we're excited about it," Harrell said.
Peltier said the scholarships give the college 11 endowed scholarships.
"That's the good thing about making an investment like that ... it honors an organization that really is no longer," Peltier said.
The scholarships will be awarded to students from rural Columbia County enrolled in one of the two programs and in financial need.
Harrell said the department has more philanthropic plans for the rest of the money.
They plan to make a donation for an endowed scholarship for students from Leah, Appling and Winfield to Augusta State University.
"The remainder of the money we are putting into a scholarship built, run and operated by North Columbia Fire and Rescue and a group of people to be given out for scholarships to people of Leah, Winfield and Appling for secondary education," Harrell said.
The scholarship will be named the North Columbia Fire and Rescue Memorial Scholarship Fund.
"We didn't memorialize any one individual," he said. "This will kind of be in memory of all the men and women who served in the past."
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