The Western Albemarle Rescue Squad (WARS) has established a nonprofit foundation and is gearing up to begin fundraising for its new station in the next few weeks. For the squad, this project is about much more than just a building. “Our whole purpose is to serve the community and to be a part of it, and we want the community to be a part of us as well,” said Kostas Alibertis, Rescue Squad Chief. “We feel strongly about having community involvement in our agency.”
Over the past several decades the squad has received donations from Crozet community members, external grants, even out of state foundations that have a local connection, and has invested those funds with an eye toward this project. “We set up the foundation as a 501(c)(3) in November of 2019 to manage donations and to look for a piece of property,” said Bob Coleman, chair of the Foundation and 23-year WARS member. The group purchased a grassy tract on Carter Street behind the Blue Goose building last spring.
Now that the land for the new station is secured, the foundation is ready for the next phase and will put up a significant ante. “As of today, we have $1.5 million that will be applied to the building cost, and using today’s numbers we expect that cost to be between $6 and 8 million,” said Coleman. “The timeline is hopefully within the next five years.” The group will initiate a fundraising campaign that will begin with an appeal letter sent out to Crozet residents, and they are enthused about the new station’s prospects.
“The new pad will be larger than what we have today, so we’ll have increased parking for our members and we hope that during slack times we can be open for community events and be thoughtfully accommodating to our neighbors,” said Coleman. “We’ll be able to design more usable room inside and have better structured bays so we can gain access from both the rear and front of the building.”
The squad plans to coordinate with Rod Phillips, the new owner of the Blue Goose building, on issues such as shared parking space and a right of way for WARS to access Crozet Avenue. “This is going to be a community effort in so many ways,” said Coleman. “We hope to take input and have conversations with neighbors, to have people willing to walk the property with us and make suggestions.”
Crozet’s rapidly increasing population has made the need for a bigger station more acute. “We live in very tight quarters [in the station’s bunk rooms] and with COVID-19 it’s become even tighter,” said Coleman. The squad would like to add to its membership and have room for expanded operations and training classes, and to serve as a community hub.
“We all grow up and are told about police officers and firefighters, but very few kids are told about the rescue squad,” said Coleman. “We’d love for the station to be a place where children can come hang out and learn about what we do. We’re a community-based organization that’s trying to look forward and project the community’s needs, and to build something they’re proud of.”
Asked if he is optimistic about the new building’s funding prospects, Coleman smiled. “We’re rescue squad volunteers—we’re always optimistic.”