Over the years, the Millbury Fireman’s Association has held an array of activities, including an annual ox roast, to raise funds to purchase equipment for the Lake Township Volunteer Fire Department - portable radios, air packs, stabilizer jacks, gloves and more – even a safety trailer the department uses for educational programs.
Last year, the association decided to not host the ox roast, a tradition in Millbury for nearly 40 years, citing high up-front costs for permits, licenses, and food as well as a decline in the association’s membership.
This year, the association is trying to raise funds by holding a raffle of a Bushmaster .223 caliber tactical rifle equipped with a Sig Sauer prismatic scope and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Capt. John Castellanos said ticket sales have been brisk, with the association selling about 300 out of a total of 1,000 in the first week. Ticket sales end Sept. 1.
He acknowledges the choice of prize might raise more than a few eyebrows.
“Some people equate it to an M16 or AK47 and it’s not. This is a semi-automatic rifle. One pull on the trigger, one bullet,” Castellanos said. “Farmers are big users of these rifles. We’re interested in getting an item out there that people would want right now.”
A rifle is not a suitable raffle prize for some people who’ve told Castellanos they won’t buy a raffle ticket but will still donate to the association.
And the recent sharp increase in price and scarcity of many types of ammunition prompted one man to jokingly tell Castellanos when he purchased a ticket that he might sell the rifle and keep the ammunition if he won.
The winner must pass a federal background check, which will be conducted through R&D Collectibles, a Lake Township gun dealer where the rifle and ammunition were purchased.
The idea for raffling off a rifle was discussed when members of the association looked around at what other organizations were doing, Castellanos said, and noticed many were getting away from more traditional fundraisers.
“It used to be feather parties, or Monte Carlo night, reverse raffles, and bingo. Now the regulations just for operating a bingo parlor are so restrictive,” he said. “And it’s hard to get people involved because of work schedules. Volunteer fire departments are smaller now than they’ve ever been. It takes so much to train and be qualified. There were not enough people to volunteer for the ox roast to make it run as well as it should.”
The Woodville Township Volunteer Fire Department held its third annual gun raffle on March 31 at Ole Zim’s Wagon Shed.
Prizes included a Remington 1911 pistol, Glock Generation 4 pistol, Henry Goldenboy .22 caliber magnum rifle, a Browning .20 gauge shotgun, a crossbow, as well as other pistols and hunting equipment.
Proceeds from the raffles have been used to buy equipment for the fire department; rescue tools, thermal imaging cameras, and a 60-inch flat screen television that is used for training programs received over the Internet.
Woodville Township Fire Chief Paul Heineman last week said the latest raffle was a “very good success” but declined to state how much money was raised.
“People were lined up out the door and we could have sold more tickets,” he said. The raffle included dinner.
Heineman said he didn’t hear of any negative comments about guns being the prizes.
“There may be some anti-gun people out there but we drew a lot of outdoors people and hunters,” he said. “We’ve even had some women enter for a chance to win free gun training sessions.”
Winners had to pass a background check and had to be at least 18 to win a rifle or shotgun and 21 to win a hand gun.
The department continues to hold pancake breakfast fundraisers during the winter months, Heineman said.
Castellanos said the Millbury Fire Association scheduled its raffle to avoid conflicting with a raffle by the new Sportsman’s Club on Woodville Road in Millbury held on Father’s Day. A Colt M-4 custom carbine and a Colt AR22 M4 rifle were being raffled by the club.
A background check is required for the winner, according to the club’s website.
For ticket information about the Millbury Fire Association’s raffle call 419-704-8704 or 419-466-8965.