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A previous fish fry event. (Submitted photo)

Just because folks aren’t stuffing themselves to the gills at the Fish Fry this year doesn’t mean the Mound Fire Department has let fundraising get away from it.

The annual Fish Fry, a 68-year tradition, was originally scheduled for June 6 but COVID-19 sunk that plan and shifted it a year later to June 5, 2021. Ripples of disappointment had followed that communique.

“It’s really become a community event as much as it is a fundraiser,” said Mound Fire Chief Greg Pederson.

The Fish Fry reels in some 3,000 people every year and over the past four years has dropped nearly $50,000 into the bucket for the volunteer department’s purchase of equipment.

And when turnout gear alone runs $2,400 a set for just the coat and pants (another $370 will buy a helmet and a pair of boots), losing the Fry this year meant the department had to fish in other pools to net at least a portion of those relied-upon funds.

“Those fundraising proceeds that we get from the Fish Fry, it really does help subsidize our budget,” said Pederson. The department has always had on its website a link to donate through the Mound Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association, but the service is thinking bigger picture this year to involve the community more directly like it previously has done through its Fish Fry.

The Relief Association is hoping to work with area restaurants in the near future, maybe this fall, to plan fundraising events that also benefit local business. Pederson said that conversations with a handful of business owners began earlier this summer but that nothing has been solidified yet while these places still get their bearings mid-pandemic after reopening in June.

All fundraising for the department is done through the Relief Association and the MFD Auxiliary, two separate non-profit organizations that help support the Mound Fire Department.

But even with volunteers, fundraising almost always has a cost, even in getting the word out. The Relief Association sent out a fundraising letter to more than 5,000 people in the MFD service area and nearly a third of the $9,000 generated from that push went toward expenses. Which is why the Auxiliary’s silent auction, held online July 12, was no small fry boon for MFD: the $3,500 raised from donated items came with zero expense.

“For departments of our size and smaller I think fundraising and donations from people are very helpful,” said Pederson.

Fundraising might also be becoming more helpful by the year. A report by the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, published December of last year, ranked Minnesota 48th in fire protection spending per household, down from 44th the previous year. That report shows average fire protection spending in Minnesota is $234 per household while the national average is $420 per household, this at a time when call volumes locally, statewide and nationally are going up every year.

“There’s not a better deal anywhere in government than the volunteer fire service, but there’s still that resistance to give us a bunch more money in our budgets,” said Pederson, who commented on the generous support of the community and the dedication of the department’s 41 firefighters.

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