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Bunker gear replacement for O’Leary Fire Dept. gets speeded up with Farm Credit donation

Laura Dickson, center, Farm Credit Canada’s relationship manager for P.E.I. presents a $25,000 donation from the crown corporation’s Agri-Spirit Fund to the O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department. Accepting the cheque, which will be used to purchase replacement bunker gear, are, from left, Blain Buchanan, Valene Gallant, Chief Ron Phillips and Matt Hardy. The department anticipates the money will outfit up to 12 of the department’s 28 firefighters with new gear.
Laura Dickson, center, Farm Credit Canada’s relationship manager for P.E.I. presents a $25,000 donation from the crown corporation’s Agri-Spirit Fund to the O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department. Accepting the cheque, which will be used to purchase replacement bunker gear, are, from left, Blain Buchanan, Valene Gallant, Chief Ron Phillips and Matt Hardy. The department anticipates the money will outfit up to 12 of the department’s 28 firefighters with new gear. - Eric McCarthy
O'LEARY, P.E.I. —

The O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department hopes to purchase 11 or 12 sets of bunker gear with a $25,000 donation it received from Farm Credit Canada’s Agri-Spirit Fund.
Laura Dickson, P.E.I.’s relationship manager with Farm Credit Canada, recently visited the fire department to present the contribution.
The funding means a lot for the department Fire Chief Ronnie Phillips acknowledges. “It would take us 10 years (without funding) to replace the same amount of bunker gear,” he said.
“We are only allowed so much per year in our budget for gear, so this would definitely help give us that little boost to get ahead of the game again and get caught up with it,” added firefighter Blain Buchanan who prepared the grant application on behalf of the rural department. The Town of O’Leary subsequently applied on behalf of the department.
Regular replacement of bunker gear is essential, Buchanan said, as the gear is only rated for 10 years.
The department is currently at full complement with 28 firefighters. Who gets the new gear – coats and pants – is still being finalized, but Chief Phillips said frontline firefighters, whose gear sees a lot more wear and tear take priority. 
Gear is custom made to each department’s specifications and fitted for individual firefighters. 
“It seemed like we fit the criteria so, why not,” Buchanan said in explaining why he prepared a grant application. 
Farm Credit Canada receives more than 1,000 grant applications and awards $1.5 million annually to projects across Canada that enhance lives or contribute to the sustainability of rural communities. Donation amounts range from $5,000 to $25,000. “All the applications are reviewed and, based on things such as how far the project has gone along, how much fundraising has already been completed, when the project is going to be completed,” Dickson described the process.
 O’Leary’s bunker gear is gold in colour. When asked whether it is also worth its weight in gold, Buchanan replies, “Pretty much, some days.”

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