April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Community turns out to help Hope Volunteer Fire Department

By HSJ Online [email protected]

More than 1,000 people turned out Saturday at Hauser Jr.-Sr. High School to enjoy fish dinners and help raise money to support the Hope Volunteer Fire Department.

Nine volunteer fire departments across Bartholomew County came together Saturday to help raise money with a massive fish fry at the high school. By 6 p.m., more than 1,000 people had bought fish dinners and at times the line snaked from the cafeteria, far down the hallway.

Blake Hunter, a 15-year-old Hope fire cadet, had been hustling back and forth throughout the whole event, carrying fish back and forth and other tasks.

"I am happy that people are coming out to help us," Hunter said. "I really am. We needed this. We are raising money for Hope, hoping we don't get shut down. That's why we are doing it."

Fire Chief Bruce Neal said that recent developments mean that the department should have enough money to carry it throughout the year. Last month, the Hope Town Council and the department agreed that the town would pay some of the department's bills, although not those associated with the new fire station and the lawsuit surrounding it.

"We have really good support from a lot of people, and area firefighters," Neal said. "I had a Whiteland firefighter friend come in just a while ago and it is really amazing."

Neal said that he hopes there will be a resolution soon to the ongoing lawsuit with the contractor building the new fire department.

Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the Columbus Fire Department, came out with his family Saturday night to enjoy dinner. Although the department did not officially take part, Wilson said many Columbus firefighters came to Hope to buy dinner and to show their support.

"This effort was all done by the volunteer departments in the county," Wilson said. "Really amazing, from talking to some of the volunteer firefighters inside, they have been really busy all day. They have had a great number of participants, so it is really awesome."

The Hope department is the longest serving volunteer firefighting agency in Bartholomew County, Wilson said.

"The community needs to have fire protection and EMS protection up here, so it is very important to have this," Wilson said.

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