By Ron VandenBoom
The Blaine County One Ambulance is one of three vehicles that have contributed to saving lives for about 22 years in Chinook and the surrounding area.
It is responsible for covering an area that extends north to the Canadian Border, south to the Missouri River, west to the Hill County line and east to Zurich, an area that exceeds 2,000 square miles.
But 22 years and 120,000 miles each have taken their toll on the three 1976-77 vintage ambulances located in Chinook, Harlem, and the Hogeland/Turner area.
Laurie Huestis, who is one of two crew chiefs along with Jim Doyle in charge of the 17 volunteers that work Blaine County One, said it cost approximately $5,000 in repairs during the past year to keep the ambulance running.
Weve spent a lot on up-keep, she said. Mechanically, theyre just falling apart.
Some money has already been collected, enough for one of the three new ambulances needed, Huestis said.
Donations from individuals and businesses, including a $2,000 contribution from BNSF and another $2,000 from Montana Power Company have already swelled the countys Capitol Improvement Fund to about $90,000, Huestis said. But more funds are needed if they are to replace all three of the ambulances.
Huestis said the cost of a new ambulance is $80,000 to $90,000 if new and between $60,000 and $65,000 for a demonstrator model with 15,000-20,000 miles on it.
A recently passed mill levy is also expected to finance another vehicle, Huestis said. But we wont start to see any of that money until sometime in the fall.
The third ambulance is not yet funded.
Two fund-raisers have been planned to help acquire the ambulance with the first beginning over the Fourth of July weekend. It will be held in conjunction with the All-Class Reunion also scheduled for the holiday weekend in Chinook.
A food booth stocked with homemade Swedish meat pies, tator rounds, snow-cones, ice-cream bars, and pop, will be manned by local volunteers helping to raise money.
Its not just the crew that has volunteered, said Huestis. There have been so many volunteers from the community. Especially Elaine Manthey, who just stepped in and volunteered her time to organize the fund raisers without asking for anything.
Raffle tickets good for gift certificates, coupons for services and actual gift items will also be sold to raise money during the three-day event. Raffle items will be drawn for during the picnic in Sweet Park on Sunday, July 4.
Another raffle for half a 4-H beef will also be available between now and the Blaine County Fair in July. The drawing for the beef will take place at that time.
A dinner theatre will be the second fund-raiser of the drive and is currently scheduled for sometime in the fall.
Anyone wanting to make a contribution to the fund can send their donation to Laurie Huestis, P.O. Box 278, Chinook MT., 59523. Checks should be made payable to the Blaine County Ambulance Service.