Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Berwyn Fire Company Weighs in on Status of Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive

If you recall, at the December 22 Board of Supervisors meeting, there was a Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive announcement and cardboard check’ presentation by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson. The check in the amount of $23,200 was well documented on the local news channels, in the newspaper and here on Community Matters. This check was to represent the township’s 2010 budget cut to the fire companies. Although Paul Olson has called me periodically to update me on the Holiday Fund Drive, there had been no official word from either the fire company nor the supervisors. Last week I sent an email to Rip Tilden, president of the Berwyn Fire Company and copied the Board of Supervisors asking the following questions:

(1) What was the total amount received by Berwyn Fire Company as a result of the solicitation efforts of supervisors Olson, Lamina and Kampf?
(2) Has Berwyn Fire Company distributed the money to Radnor and Paoli fire companies?
(3) Can you provide a complete list of the donors, individuals and corporate?
(4) Are there any contributions that the fire company can not accept and therefore must return?

Rip graciously supplied me with a detailed response to my questions. Accompanying his letter to the community was a wonderfully supportive note which I much appreciated. Below is Rip’s open letter to the residents of Tredyffrin Township. As I expected, Rip reports that it has been the policy of Berwyn Fire Company not to provide donor information, preferring to turn that responsibility over to the supervisors who were in charge of the solicitation (Kampf, Lamina, Olson).

I am going to send a copy of this letter to the Board of Supervisors and ask that the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive be added to next week’s supervisors meeting agenda. The Holiday Fund Drive has successfully achieved their December goal, and much like it was important to publically announce the solicitation drive with the ‘cardboard check’, I likewise think it is important that the community have closure on this matter. I will ask for an official update from the Board of Supervisors and their response to my questions, including the list of donors.

Berwyn Fire Company response to questions from Pattye Benson

April 10, 2010

Dear Tredyffrin Community,

On behalf of the three fire companies that service Tredyffrin Township (Berwyn Fire Company, Paoli Fire Company, and Radnor Fire Company), I can report that we have received $24,400 as a result of the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive effort. We understand that one or two additional donations may still be coming to us, which would make the ultimate total greater than that amount. The donation money will be divided among the three fire companies based on coverage area (each fire company will receive the money donated by individuals and companies who reside in their coverage areas). We plan to distribute the money to the other fire companies this month (each of the presidents of the fire companies agreed to wait to distribute the funds until all the money was received).

These funds will be included in the annual fund drive totals at the fire companies, which means we will use them to help fund our general operations. We encourage members of the community to donate directly to the fire companies through the direct mail fund drives that are currently in progress. The funding needs of all three fire companies are substantial. For example, the annual operating budget for the Berwyn Fire Company is approximately $1.5 million, with about 18% of our funding needs in 2010 covered by municipal support (your tax dollars). We must fund the other 82% of our operating expenses through our own fundraising efforts, billings for ambulance calls and other sources (grants, rent, etc.). The Berwyn Fire Company responds to approximately 3000 calls a year (fire and ambulance calls) with a team of 65 volunteers and 9 full time employees (firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/Medics).

We have long had a policy of not releasing the names of donors (either individuals or companies) who make contributions to the fire company, unless they specifically ask us to do so. No one has done so in this case. We feel strongly that we should respect the privacy of our donors. We thank those who have coordinated this fundraising effort and we feel we should allow them to handle any questions as to donor information.

We thank the members of our community for their support during the budget discussions last year, and for their financial contributions. When it comes to our funding needs, your support is invaluable.

We are now focused on working through the Tredyffrin-Easttown Fire Task Force to put in place a long-term funding solution that will ensure that all of the fire companies that serve these townships can continue to provide the superior fire/EMS services that we have come to expect in this community. We look forward to working with both Boards through the current Task Force to achieve this goal in 2010.


Rip Tilden, President
Berwyn Fire Company

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  1. What happened to the DiFillipo piece? I sort of wondered why she had offered one …. but maybe she didnt?

  2. Two things stick out ot me in John Petersen’s reply…

    1. Why weren’t the fire companies soliciting all these businesses? Doesn’t it make sense they should be on at least an annual basis?

    I would think they would be wanting to increase their fund raising base (which they now have thanks to the names/etc provided by the Supervisors’ Holiday Drive) rather than not.

    2. If I remember, the library fundraising info was posted on-line or published somewhere. Whether politicized or not, that means that — unlike the Fire Co — the information was made public.

  3. 1) The fire companies have reported numerous times at the township meetings that all residents and businesses within their locals get annual fund drive letters so they WERE solicited.

    2) Maybe you should ask those that solicited the funds to publish the list? That would make more sense.

  4. Pattye maybe you can help with this.

    As far as I know ‘some’ of the Supervisors coordinated this effort without notifying the fire companies of their actions PRIOR to the big surprise in December correct? If this is correct then the persons, in this case some of the Board members, who coordinated the effort should make the list and their actions to acquire the money public. Correct?

    I believe Roger is correct that the fire companies have repeatedly in public explained that every home and business is solicited via a direct mail fundraiser annually. Correct?

    I think we can all agree, it would have been a good idea of the Board members who hatched this effort to set things up with the fire companies ahead of time to avoid any issues like we are seeing now.

    1. I don’t know whether Kampf, Lamina and Olson contacted the fire companies before the cardboard check presentation — it would appear that they did not, but I do not know for sure. I sent an email yesterday to the Board of Supervisors, copied Mimi and Tom Hogan (township solicitor) asking that an official update on the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Fund Drive be added to Monday’s supervisors meeting. In my email, I requested that the update include a list of businesses who were personally solicited by these supervisors. To date, I have not received an acknowledgement of my email or request. In the response that I received from Rip Tilden, president of Berwyn Fire Company, he advises that the funding solicitation information would need to be provided by those who did the solicitation (Kampf, Lamina & Olson). It is important that we have open and transparent government; I am hopeful that the solicitation information will be provided.

  5. Question: what if some donors prefer to remain anonymous in public (though the fire company and supervisors may know their names from checks, etc)?

    Should those people who donated not be given the chance now to make that known before the list is provided – particularly since it is pretty clear from this discussion that they probably didn’t expect to have a list made public?

    Anonymous giving is a long and valuable tradition in efforts like this and I would hate to see the political tug-of-war over this issue adversely affect that for the fire companies or any other organization.

  6. I think the fire guys are trying to lay low on this. They didn’t ask for this. They asked for their municipality to not cut their already low funding.
    I have confirmed from a reliable source that the fire companies were NOT aware of the solicitations for funding to side-step the political hounding the community was giving to keep the fireworks and cut the fire company funding.

    I also have been told that the fire companies do indeed send letters to all residents and businesses in the township. The return rates are about 30% from residents and 5% from businesses.

    It is likely that many of the companies that gave in the holiday drive already donate to the fire companies regularly, and if they do not give a 2nd time this year, then their donation towards the cardboard check then doesn’t come in during the Fire Co’s fund drive.

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