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Lobster Festival makes big donation to Thomaston Fire Department

Posted: 5/6/13

Knox County Chief Deputy Tim Carroll slid into his role as president of the Maine Lobster Festival Board of Directors Friday afternoon to present a big $50,000 check to the Thomaston Fire Department.

The money is earmarked for the fire department's fund to replace its decades-old utility truck.

Last month, the Fire Capt. Tony Leo and the Thomaston Firemans Association began a fundraising campaign to replace Utility 3, a 1968 modified pickup truck that has responded to car accidents, grass fires and structure fires over its 45-year history with the department. More recently, Utility 3 has been used to haul the town's rescue boat, which has been called on not only in Thomaston but in other towns as well.

"It's a portable, inflatable boat, so we can take the air out, carry it into the woods to a pond or quarry and then re-inflate it to use it," said Leo. "We've been called on to use it in Friendship, Cushing and Warren, and in Rockland twice, one of those times in the winter."

Carroll said the rescue boat's use not just in Thomaston, but in Rockland and surrounding towns, led the Lobster Festival Board to vote in favor of donating to the fundraising effort.

"We go through a process to choose a beneficiary each year and we knew they were fundraising as Tony [Leo] submitted an application. We thought this was a great opportunity to support something that not only benefits Thomaston, but the whole community," said Carroll. "The truck will benefit the whole area."

In more than a decade of donating Lobster Festival proceeds back to the community, Carroll said the Thomaston Firemans Association donation was the largest.

The Lobster Festival has pledged $200,000 in the past several years to the Gateway Center Project, now known as The Maine Lighthouse Museum, and has given $5,000 to the Rockland Police Department for new furniture, $10,000 to the Bob Gagnon Cancer Center at Pen Bay Medical center, purchased a new ambulance for the city of Rockland and provided funds to pave the entire Rockland Public Landing. The group also donated two new floats for use by the city at the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, made contributions to local schools, the Chidren's Museum, Rockland-Thomaston Area Chamber of Commerce and Senior Spectrum, and funded $10,000 in repairs to decking at the middle pier, adjacent to the giant lobster cooker.

A portion of its earnings also is placed in the Festival Recreation Trust Fund, from which money is distributed for worthy recreation projects throughout Knox County and contributes considerable volunteer hours and funds in grooming and improving the appearance of Rockland's Harbor Park.

The Lobster Festival donation gives the Thomaston Firemans Association a big boost in its $75,000 fundraising goal, and Leo said monthly public suppers will hopefully bring in the balance needed for the new truck.

"The first supper raised $800, and we are holding public suppers the first Saturday of each month until we get the rest," said Leo.

This month's public supper is being held May 11, to avoid conflicting another public supper May 4 to benefit local resident Russ Ellwell, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

"Since so many people helped fundraise for my dad, [Fire Chief Mike Leo] with his cancer, we wanted to give people the chance to help Russ too so we are pushing our supper back a week," said Tony Leo.

The May 11 supper, at Thomaston Fire Station, is being called the "Cookout Kick Off Public Supper," to coincide with the start of summer cookout season. The supper is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will be a family cookout with burgers, hot dogs and more.

For more information about the Thomaston Firemans Association, visit them on Facebook.