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Rescuers seek cash buffer

Looking for stability, volunteers aim to build massive legacy fund

NORTH Shore Rescue isn't paid for saving lives in local mountains, but that doesn't mean their operations are cheap.

The service, comprised entirely of volunteers, has had a remarkably stable string of contributions from donors, the provincial government and the North Shore's three municipalities, but it needs a long-term plan, according to team leader Tim Jones.

"They all fit like pieces of a puzzle, but it's tenuous," Jones said. "We've come to a very clear realization that we have to create a major legacy fund to keep North Shore Rescue (viable)."

Jones and his team are getting ready to launch a new fundraising effort organized along the lines of a hospital foundation, which should make the organization a financially sustainable operation.

"We don't want to burden our future generations with worrying about paying the bills for training and communications on a day-to-day basis. That's what we're doing right now," he said.

Jones has consulted with Judy Savage, president of the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation, to help develop a business plan and draw up a governance structure for NSR's fundraising body.

Because high cost of search-and-rescue stations, equipment caches, communications, training and helicopter operations, the group is going to need start big, said Jones.

"We're looking at probably in excess of $5 million, and we're going to be able to do it. We take this very seriously," he said. "It's expensive infrastructure, and it works. We've proven that. But to keep this infrastructure maintained and to improve it . . . that takes money, and lots of it."

This means fundraisers will be approaching some of the more affluent residents of the North Shore.

"There is huge wealth in our community that gives to a number of different worthwhile causes like Lions Gate Hospital and other areas. We want to reach out and make contact with people who are wealthy and who give to the community," he said.

Part of the pitch will be reminding donors that it's not just adventurers who bite off more than they can chew that NSR deals with. The team is often called on to search for children and seniors with dementia who have wandered off and need to be found quickly.

Without the volunteer force, it would fall to emergency services and local governments to conduct rescues, something that would be too costly to even consider, Jones said.

"Municipalities (don't) have the capacity to hire a 50-person rescue team. It's just not in the cards," he said.

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