By Reggie Ellis
The Exeter Community Health Fund made history again this year by giving record donations to three Exeter organizations last week.
ECHF donated $43,000 to the Exeter Volunteer Fire Department, $25,000 to the Exeter Health and Wellness Foundation and $2,000 to the Exeter Boxing Club - all record one-time contributions respectively.
"We are returning the money back to the community where it came from," said Joan Hagans, who -- along with fellow ECHF board members Alex Torres, Betsy Peterson and Leon Ooley - presented checks to the head of each organization totaling $70,000.
Mike Shearer and Carl Corley accepted the check on behalf of Exeter's volunteer firefighters. The $43,000 is earmarked for two hand-held thermal imaging cameras ($20,000), two air bag systems ($14,000), an automatic defibrillator system ($5,000) and 300 smoke detectors ($4,000).
"It's this type of community support that has made the fire department able to get equipment that increases the overall safety of the public," Shearer said.
The thermal imaging cameras will allow firefighters to see heat signals in smoke filled environments. Similar to night vision, the difference in temperature of the human body and a burning wall will decrease the amount of time it takes to find people trapped or unconscious in a burning building.
The two air bag systems, seven airbags in all, will replace two outdated air bags. The airbags are normally used to lift vehicle or anything weighing several tons to save trapped or crushed people. For example, air bags are placed underneath a car that has rolled on its side. The old air bags lifted about 13 inches and lifted about 32 tons. The new system has air bags that will life from 8-20 inches and 12-74 tons. All seven bags can lift a total of 234 tons. The new airbags will also remain inflated after disconnecting from the pressurized air hose, making it difficult to use several at a time. The new system will allow firefighters to disconnect from one and fill several others without the air bags deflating.
The automatic defibrillator will include a biophase feature that reads the electronic impulses of the individual and calculates the appropriate power level of shock. The current system begins at the same voltage and automatically increases power for each shock.
But perhaps the most important part of the donation is for 300 smoke detectors. The devices will be given to those who do not have smoke detectors in their home. Capt. Wes Grim said many of the older homes in Exeter either do not have smoke detectors or the homeowners have disconnected them when they began beeping signaling a low battery.
“I don't think people realize how much these little things can save your life,” he said. “I'll bring them a battery myself. If it saves one life it will be well worth the cost of a 9 volt battery.”
President Ted Macaulay and board members Richard Harke and John Guinn accepted the check for the Exeter Health and Wellness Foundation. The $25,000 is to be used to coordinate an annual health fair and expo for at least five years. ECHF board members said there has been a void of health education and information since May Daze was cancelled in 2001.
Kaweah Delta Health Care District, which owned Memorial Hospital at Exeter, decided to pull funding for the annual health fair and sidewalk sale in November 2001 citing off-site inefficiency and economics as reasons.
Traditionally the event was held on the third Saturday in May as a joint effort between the hospital and the Downtown Merchants Association, an ad hoc committee of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce. May Daze offered free testing for diabetes, blood pressure and breast examinations, cholesterol and bone density tests for a nominal fee, child identification registration, health education and information, a safety bike rodeo, "Stop, Drop and Roll" fire drills, and entertainment activities for children such as clowns, bounce houses and face painting.
The event has already been endorsed by the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, which would play a key role in promoting the event. Macaulay said the foundation would try to organize something this fall and possibly move the event to spring in 2005.
“We need to get information out to the people so they will know what services are available to them,” he said. “Most people don't realize all that's out there.”
Founder Doug Henderson accepted the check on behalf of the Exeter Boxing Club. Henderson, a former boxer who has trained both amateur and professionals, began teaching boxing at the Exeter Boys & Girls Club to provide structure to troubled youth.
“We don't get them all but we do a lot with the ones we get,” Henderson said.
Henderson currently has 40-50 male and female students. He is also currently training Tania Gomez of Farmersville, a professional boxer who is currently rated No. 17 in women's boxing. Gomez works with the female students in Henderson's program.
“We teach them to follow the rule's and that's the way life is,” he said. “I always say 'No books, No box.' If they can't keep their grades up then they don't get to train.”
The $2,000 will be used for new supplies and equipment. Henderson runs the program out of the back room of the Boys & Girls Club with a hodge-podge ring and equipment taped or sewn together.
“The first thing I see when I come in here is someone who knows how to stretch a dollar,” ECHF board member Alex Torres said. “This is a great program and I know Doug will make $2,000 go along ways.”
On Jan. 30, ECHF donated $312,000 to the Exeter Union High School District, the district's largest one-time donation, for the construction of a new track in Exeter Stadium
Formerly Memorial Hospital at Exeter's board of directors, the ECHF is attempting to dissolve by donating the remaining money the hospital district received after selling its assets to Kaweah Delta Health Care District in 1998. Board members include Leon Ooley, Alex Torres, Betsy Peterson, Joan Hagans, Terry Miller, Ann Dungan, Cathy Fuller and Kelly Gentry.
“We are the stewards of settling the financial affairs of the Memorial Hospital, and we want to make sure this money goes to the right places, where there is a need,” Ooley said.